For Cap­i­tals, a spe­cial teams spe­cial

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY IS­ABELLE KHURSHUDYAN

The Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ power play was en­dur­ing one of its worst nights of the sea­son, in­ef­fec­tive in its three op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing reg­u­la­tion. But on a four-on-three in over­time, de­fense­man Kevin Shat­tenkirk re­layed the puck to Nick­las Back­strom in the right face­off cir­cle, and Back­strom sniped it in, all past strug­gles for­got­ten.

Though the Cap­i­tals’ power play ul­ti­mately de­liv­ered the 2-1 over­time vic­tory, it was Wash­ing­ton’s penalty kill that starred at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter. Philadel­phia’s power play re­mained score­less against the Cap­i­tals on the sea­son, adding six failed chances to its to­tal Satur­day night.

The win was the Cap­i­tals’ 15th straight at home.

“You know, in over­time, when it re­ally mat­tered, when we had a chance to win the game, they re­sponded,” Cap­i­tals Coach Barry Trotz said. “So, that’s how you look at it. I’ll take 25 per­cent any day of the week.”

Af­ter 40 min­utes elapsed with­out a goal, each team tal­lied in the first three min­utes of the third pe­riod. Philadel­phia’s Sean Cou­turier redi­rected a pass in front from Matt Read to lift the Fly­ers to a lead 1:19 into the pe­riod. That lasted 81 sec­onds; on a rush into the of­fen­sive zone, de­fense­man Dmitry Orlov used Philadel­phia’s Radko Gu­das as a Stars at Cap­i­tals To­mor­row, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CSN

and fired a slapper past goal­tender Steve Ma­son.

That set the stage for over­time, both teams get­ting at least a point out of the game. In three-on-three, Wash­ing­ton got a power play when Michael Del Zotto was called for hold­ing with 2:40 left in the ex­tra frame. A shot by T.J. Oshie hit Ma­son in the mask, pop­ping the pro­tec­tion off his head. A lit­tle more than a minute later, Back­strom scored the win­ner.

To that point, Wash­ing­ton’s man-ad­van­tage had just one shot in three op­por­tu­ni­ties, per­haps still ad­just­ing to a change in per­son­nel with the ad­di­tion of Shat­tenkirk, whom the Cap­i­tals traded for Mon­day.

“Some­times you’re go­ing to have th­ese games [when] the power play is not go­ing,” Back­strom said. “It’s a lit­tle bit frus­trat­ing. But at the same time, you just have to try to work through it and get bet­ter at it.

“We have a new player in there. It’s a lot of new things he needs to take in. I think when we’re all five are click­ing, it’s go­ing to look bet­ter, from the break­outs to the end zone and where we are. But I thought over­all maybe it wasn’t our best game. Ob­vi­ously the power play was strug­gling, too.”

Wash­ing­ton had its penalty kill to thank for the tie game at sec­ond in­ter­mis­sion. The Fly­ers’ power play has the sec­ond-most goals in the NHL, and the Cap­i­tals didn’t help them­selves by giv­ing the unit six op­por­tu­ni­ties in the game. Philadel­phia didn’t score on any of them, but Trotz still felt that it hurt mo­men­tum and the flow of the game.

“I thought there was a lit­tle bit of chip­pi­ness in there, but we’ve got to stay a lit­tle bit more dis­ci­plined,” Trotz said.

The Cap­i­tals are now 15 for 15 against the Fly­ers’ power play in the sea­son se­ries. With 13:42 left in a tied third pe­riod, Tom Wil­son was called for rough­ing, and in the piv­otal mo­ment, Wash­ing­ton’s penalty kill al­lowed Philadel­phia just one shot on goal. Orlov was whis­tled for high­stick­ing with 3:13 re­main­ing in the third, and Wash­ing­ton’s short­handed group killed that penalty off, too.

just rec­og­niz­ing that there’s not too many shots from the top,” for­ward Jay Bea­gle said. “It’s more of try­ing to spread us out and get it down low and then find either the guy in the mid­dle there or back door. Our ‘D’ has done a good job at rec­og­niz­ing that and just try­ing to get a long stick on it.”

The Fly­ers en­tered the game just four points out of the sec­screen ond wild-card po­si­tion, still vy­ing for a post­sea­son berth. Rather than sell off half the team be­fore the trade dead­line, Phila “It’s del­phia Gen­eral Man­ager Ron Hex­tall re-signed sev­eral play­ers and added a piece in cen­ter Valt­teri Filp­pula, try­ing to in­ject some hope into the team.

Trotz said he didn’t have to ad­dress with the team that the Fly­ers are a po­ten­tial first-round play­off matchup for Wash­ing­ton; a look at the stand­ings would make that ev­i­dent. Satur­day’s de­fen­sive, tight-check­ing and emo­tional game was a taste of what the Cap­i­tals could see in April.

“You’re go­ing to get their ab­so­lute play­off-mode best game, and that’ll be a good test for you be­cause that hard­ens us,” Trotz said be­fore the game. “It gets us pre­pared for hope­fully what’s ahead.

“This is my third year, and I have not been to a game where Philly and the Caps have not been a lit­tle bit nose to nose, so I think that’s a good thing.”

ROB CARR/GETTY IM­AGES

Philadel­phia’s Wayne Sim­monds bar­rels down on Wash­ing­ton goalie Braden Holtby in the first pe­riod.

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