PHILADELPHIA | Character. That was the word used often in the visiting locker room Tuesday night as the Capitals blew a three-goal lead, tied the score late and then beat the Eastern-leading Flyers 5-4 in a shootout.
The talk largely wasn’t about the lapses that led to the meltdown but more about the Caps’ ability to bounce back and pick up the two points to sew up their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
“We had the character to get that fourth goal and get back in it and score that goal and eventually win in a shootout,” forward Jason Chimera said. “It’s a big win. Good teams find different ways to win.”
It was a game that could be taken two ways: Either the Caps choked away an easy victory in a playoff-like atmosphere at Wells Fargo Center or they learned a lesson and still managed to leave a hostile environment with what they came for.
Players and coach Bruce Boudreau chose the latter.
“I think the important part from our standpoint was that a team comes back and scores four goals and gets the lead and then you have the character that doesn’t quit,” Boudreau said. “Just to have the wherewithal to come back in a game like that was important to us.”
In a rare turn of events the usually-slow-starting Caps jumped out to a lead and built it up to 3-0, chasing Flyers starter Sergei Bobrovsky with a couple soft goals. But Mike Knuble admitted that Philadelphia’s switch to Brian Boucher sparked the Eastern Conference’s top team; and as Marcus Johansson said a fast start is “not enough.”
It wasn’t, and the Flyers pounced, scoring off Dennis Wideman’s skate, then off a missed defensive assignment and then off a Jeff Schultz turnover. All of a sudden it was 3-3 – and then Philadelphia took the lead by winning the faceoff and getting a Danny Briere goal past Michal Neuvirth.
Boudreau said turnovers were the problem and Chimera even said Alexander Semin’s double-minor for high-sticking “kinda took momentum away.” Yet the Caps managed to tie it with 3:19 left in regulation as Johansson blasted one by Boucher.
“They played a good game and I think it’s just strong by us and a good team effort to come back again and get the tying goal with a little time left,” Johansson said. “We have to see the positives. To bounce back from that is pretty strong.”
But it took winning in a shootout to ensure a happy charter flight back to Washington after a game that quickly got away from the Caps.
“It’s good to know we can regroup after giving up four goals in a row and get that tie and eventually get the win,” Chimera said. “I think it’s a good mental victory for us as a group.”