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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Photo: Len Redkoles
Monday night during Game Three, Alex Ovechkin scored two goals and tallied an assist on a John Carlson power play marker. The three points gave Ovechkin 74 in his postseason career, giving the Great Eight sole possession of the franchise lead. Ovechkin, who now owns almost every major Capitals record, has two more postseason points than the previous record-holder, Dale Hunter.
Hunter, a 19-year veteran and a successful junior hockey league bench boss, coached Ovechkin during the 2011-12 season. He also is the only Capitals captain to take the team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
This record must have meant a lot to Ovechkin, right?
Brandon Manning skates around debris on the ice during Game Three (Photo: Elsa)
Wristbands have now taken their place among snowballs and batteries in the infamy of Philadelphia sports. During Monday night’s in Game Three of the first round against the Washington Capitals, Flyers fans melted down, taking off the light-up contraptions given to them before the game and hurling them onto the ice after their team took 35 penalty minutes on one play. The Flyers received another two PIMs later in the game because fans would not stop throwing their LED bracelets, despite an admonishment from public address announcer Lou Nolan on a night with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance.
Sarena Snider, the daughter of Flyers founder and chairman Ed Snider who died last week at 83, tweeted that her dad “would’ve called the wristband throwers a ‘disgrace.’”
It was curious, then, that pallets of wristbands labeled “Game 2” appeared on the event floor of Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, the day before the Flyers are set to play their second home game of the series.
At first, it all went according to plan. The house lights went down at exactly 7 PM. The arena lit up in a sea of orange and white lights glimmering off commemorative wristbands. A tribute to the recently deceased Ed Snider, who founded the Flyers in 1967 and had owned the team ever since, played on the big screen. All of Wells Fargo Center, from the seating bowl to the benches to the press box, applauded a great owner. Then Kate Smith and Lauren Hart sang their trademark “God Bless America” duet. Within a minute of puck drop, the Flyers had the first goal, wildly sliding into the boards in celebration. The roar from the fans was booming. This was their night for their owner.
“Ed was a dynamic visionary who turned Philadelphia into one of the great hockey towns in the world,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said before the game in a heartfelt press conference. “He believed in excellence — and in this team, the Flyers.”
But in the end, that team let him down.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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