EricFehrGoal

Photo: Drew Hallowell

Eric Fehr spent nine years with the Washington Capitals. He was twice a hero in the Winter Classic, scoring two goals in 2011’s rain-soaked epic in Pittsburgh and once in Washington’s late third period thriller in 2015. He wanted to stay with the Capitals, knowing they had a chance at the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. But the Capitals spent their money elsewhere and Fehr joined the rival Penguins on a three year contract. Now, on a Saturday night in May, he put a dent in the same Washington champion hopes he once held, tipping a puck past Caps goalie Braden Holtby in the third period to break a 1-1 tie in Game Two and send the series back to Pittsburgh on an even footing.

“That one’s right up there,” Fehr said after the game. “To score in the second round like that and get our team a split in this rink I think is pretty special.”

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Photo: Rob Carr

The Washington Capitals’ power play has operated in the same way for years under a myriad of coaches. It features a 1-3-1 setup. The main weapon is Alex Ovechkin, who scored 19 of his 50 goals on the man-advantage in the regular season. Since 2011, it’s been one of the league’s top five units. Everyone knows what’s coming; they just can’t stop it.

In their first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals power play was key as the team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, converting on eight of 17 man-advantage opportunities, despite the Capitals often getting outplayed at even strength.

“Our power play is successful because everybody is on the same page, everybody knows what they have to do,” Ovechkin said after Saturday’s morning skate. “If they take me away, Carly’s open or Osh or Willy or Kuzy or Backy. It’s hard to stop. If I have a chance to shoot the puck I will, but I’ll take a guy with me to go to the goal line or something.”

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Washington Capitals center Jay Beagle played great in Game One of the Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The fourth liner skated 15 minutes and 17 seconds, topping Washington’s third line in TOI. He and partners Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson were hard on the forecheck, forcing turnovers and tiring out Pittsburgh’s forwards. Beagle also won 63 percent of his faceoffs, including some key ones against Evgeni Malkin, whom he bested 75 percent of the time.

After the game, Beagle and I exchanged our usual fist bump for a job well done, but no one in the locker room wanted to ask him about about his performance. Instead, Beagle’s adventures with Kris Letang’s stick, which got stuck between his helmet and visor, was the topic du jour for the national media assembled at Verizon Center.

“I definitely knew there was a stick in my visor,” Beagle said. “I just couldn’t believe that it was stuck. I tried to pull it a couple times just so I could continue with the play, but it wouldn’t come out. Then I figured I might as well get to the bench, I’m useless right now. I can’t see a thing.”

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Lovejoy celebrates his goal (Photo: Rob Carr)

Capitals defensemen Dmitry Orlov went for the big hit, hoping to take Penguins center Nick Bonino out at the blue line. Instead, Orlov missed, colliding with Nate Schmidt. Bonino was left with an unfettered path to the net. He shot the puck on Braden Holtby before Ben Lovejoy cleaned up the rebound at the midway point of Game One on Thursday, tying the score at one.

Orlov, who, like Schmidt, is playing in his first postseason in the NHL, didn’t see the ice for the rest of the game, save for a brief 25-second shift early in the third period. He finished with less than six minutes of time on ice.

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Before the Caps-Pens series, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen sat down with Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky and asked him about the game’s two biggest superstars, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. The captains will play against each other in the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Penguins won that series in seven games.

“Both guys love the microscope and love being under pressure, and both guys seem to elevate their game when they play against each other,” Gretzky told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “But that’s natural. Everybody has a lot of pride as an athlete and when you’re an elite athlete and you play head to head against a guy who is your peer, there is more of a motivation factor. I anticipate both players raising their game to another level.”

Gretzky also addressed Ovechkin’s legacy. While the Russian machine has managed to win the Richard Trophy six times and be a four-time MVP, Ovechkin has not won the Stanley Cup in his 10-year NHL career, never making it past the second round of the playoffs.

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Photo: Patrick Smith

Inside the cramped visitor’s locker room at Verizon Center, players, media, and staff played bumper cars, attempting — and sometimes failing — to dodge skates, equipment, and each other. “Oh, sorry,” one player said as he bumped me into a television camera.

“It’s not one of the better visiting locker rooms in the league, but maybe they try to do that for a reason,” former Capitals forward Eric Fehr said.

The room may be the size of a large walk-in closet, but there was another reason for the tight arrangements. The Capitals-Penguins series is the most high profile of the second round. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby will meet in the playoffs for first time since the 2009 semifinals, an epic series that featured a game with dueling hat tricks and a heartbreaking blowout loss for the Capitals in Game Seven. The media list for Thursday night’s Game One spanned three pages, with large camera crews trucking down from the Great White North.

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Photo: Derek Leung

Eric Fehr and Mike Green both wanted to stay in Washington and win a Stanley Cup — it just didn’t work out that way. They had played their entire 10-year careers with the Caps, save for one year Fehr spent with the Jets. But with restricted free agents like Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Marcus Johansson to lock up, plus the offseason acquisitions of Justin Williams and TJ Oshie, Fehr knew it would be tough to stay.

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The Capitals Don’t Like Your Narrative

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Photo: Patrick McDermott

In Game Five, the Philadelphia Flyers had the fewest shots they’ve ever had in a game. But they won. The Washington Capitals, at one point up 3-0 in the series, are now heading to Philly, where the Flyers have a chance Sunday to force a Game Seven. This is the second time the Flyers have won two games in a row after being down 3-0. The last time, against the Bruins in 2010, they won the next two as well, becoming the third team in NHL history to win a series after being down 3-0.

Washington has a playoff pedigree as well. It involves losing in painful ways. It’s on everyone’s minds. But the Capitals want none of it. Here’s what they said after dropping Game Five.

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Photo: Rob Carr

After Monday night’s anarchic attempt at a hockey game, the Washington Capitals held a 3-0 series lead. In 180 minutes of hockey, the Philadelphia Flyers took 96 PIMs. Washington’s power play was eight for 17. The Caps, it seemed, were in for a long layover before facing the winner of the Rangers-Penguins series.

“Everything they’ve gotten to a point we’ve given them,” Wayne Simmonds said in the minutes after Game Three ended. “We’ve got to stay out of the box.”

The Flyers have done that the last two games, reducing Washington to five power plays in Games Four and Five. Without that boost, the Caps fell when the series shifted back to Verizon Center Friday night. They outshot the Flyers 44-11 — shot attempts were 82-27 — but lost the special teams battle. Philadelphia had six power plays while Washington’s deadly man-advantage unit was limited to three.

“We were in the box a lot,” Tom Wilson, who did not receive any infractions, said. “Yeah, we had a lot of shots, but we have to do a better job of getting to the interior and staying out of the box. If we play 60 minutes five-on-five, I don’t think you see that team standing up by the end of it.”

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Photo: Patrick Smith

Wednesday night during Game Four, Brayden Schenn got dangerous again. The Flyers forward cross-checked Evgeny Kuznetsov in the leg while the Caps’ leading scorer had his back turned. The play went unpenalized, but Schenn’s attempt to injure did not go unnoticed by several Caps.

Speaking to the press during the team’s off day, checking-line forward Tom Wilson shared his disgust.

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