- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2016

Nicklas Backstrom didn’t have to think hard to figure out the reason the Washington Capitals won their playoff opener.

It was because of their penalty kill unit, which effectively shut down the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period.

“If they score there, it’s a totally different game, but we kept it together there and then we started playing better five-on-five, too,” Backstrom said. “That’s the way we have to do it this series.”

The Capitals won Game 1 of their first-round series against the Flyers, 2-0, on a power-play goal and an even-strength goal that hit the back of the net seven seconds after four-on-four play ended.

Yet it was their penalty kill that prevented them from falling behind in the first period and effectively told the Flyers they’d have to work much harder if they wanted to get on the scoreboard.

“A couple big blocks, big saves, just guys working their tails off,” defenseman John Carlson said. “That’s what you need. It’s not easy to step in front of one-timers all the time. When guys pay the price and work as hard as they did, they deserve a lot of credit for that.”


SEE ALSO: Defense, shot-blocking help Braden Holtby pick up third career playoff shutout


The Capitals found themselves down a man early, when Carlson was sent to the penalty box at 3:30 of the first period for a hooking call on the Flyers‘ Jakub Voracek. The Flyers couldn’t set up their power play — the sequence’s greatest offense was when the Capitals‘ Justin Williams wasted several seconds by skating around in the attacking zone — and managed just two shots on goal.

Washington turned the Flyers aside twice more in the period, first with Brooks Orpik heading to the box at 7:50 for an illegal check to the head of Nick Cousins and then when Orpik returned after he was called for interference on Cousins at 14:14.

Philadelphia took two shots on goal during its second power play — a dangler that Brayden Schenn tried to wrist in and Voracek’s rebound try — and another on its third, but none cracked Braden Holtby, who finished with 19 saves and a clean sheet for his third career playoff shutout.

“I believe I should make those stops every time,” said Holtby, referring to the pair of stops. “Hopefully, at that point of the game, it shows I’m prepared to the rest of the bench, and all you can really ask for is an opportunity to start to contribute to the way the game’s going to play out.”

The Capitals have long been celebrated for their power play, which went just 1-for-6 on Carlson’s second period goal, but it was their penalty kill unit that was comparatively more successful this past season.

Washington withstood 85.2 percent of its disadvantages, including all 13 over its last five games, to rank second in the league, behind only the Anaheim Ducks.

“It’s a momentum swing when you can come back in after a [first] period like that and weather it,” said Jay Beagle, who scored the second goal. “That’s what we did. We weathered it and knew that now we had the momentum. We felt good going back into the second.”

Holtby said the Capitals were prepared for the Flyers‘ power play because of recent film sessions, but said the task now gets tougher. He expected Philadelphia to make adjustments in practice on Friday, then to return on Saturday having found a way it believes will be successful.

“Because it worked tonight, it’s going to be even harder next game because they’re going to make adjustments,” Holtby said. “It’s a cat-and-mouse game now.”


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