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.
Photo: Rob Carr
The Capitals penalty kill was the second-best unit in the league during the regular season, killing 85.2 percent of opponents’ chances. Yet on special teams, it was overshadowed by the power play, which finished fifth. While the PK doesn’t provide between-the-legs passes or booming one-timers, it has kept the Capitals in control of their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Washington’s penalty kill is a perfect eight for eight. Going back to the last five games of the regular season, the opponents’ power plays have been stopped 21 times in a row. Despite outshooting the Capitals 61-54 overall in the first two games, the Flyers have scored just one goal. Washington has six, including three power-play goals, good for a 2-0 series lead.
“We got our butts on the line,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said after Saturday’s Game Two loss.
Photo: Patrick McDermott
Jay Beagle scored his fourth career playoff goal, icing the game for the Caps late in the third period. Beags drove the center lane and nailed the top corner of the net like a 50-goal scorer, but I need to point out two crucial plays before that goal happened.
Photo: Patrick Smith
With everything locked up and only days to wait until their first round playoff matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals experienced injury scares at the worst time of the season.
First, Jay Beagle went down after blocking a shot with his left ankle during Saturday’s win over St. Louis. Beagle was scratched for Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, necessitating an emergency recall of Hershey forward Zach Sill. Beagle, however, is set to play Thursday night. Jason Chimera is expected be in the lineup as well after leaving practice for a few minutes the day before because his “mom called.”
But there is one unknown: the status of TJ Oshie.
Beagle during Saturday’s morning skate. (Photo: Chris Gordon)
On Saturday morning, Jay Beagle took to the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to the cheers of his teammates. He spent 45 minutes skating with the Caps and working with coaches in a non-contact jersey, his first practice with the team since breaking his left hand in a game against the Buffalo Sabres on December 30. After launching into a soliloquy to me on his Hotmail account, Beags took questions from reporters.
“It’s fun just to be out there,” Beagle said as his teammates prepared for the Devils-Capitals game, the 21st game Beagle will miss due to his injury. “Skating all by yourself gets to be tough after a little bit. It was good skating with the guys.”
On Wednesday, Jay Beagle suffered a freak upper body injury against the Buffalo Sabres. Head coach Barry Trotz said after the game Beagle would be out “for an extended period of time.”
This morning, the Caps gave an update on the third-line center’s condition.
As the Capitals finished off their ninth straight win on Wednesday, the sellout crowd roared in approval of the NHL’s best team. But 20 minutes later, there were only hushed gasps from the press corps as head coach Barry Trotz explained how costly Washington’s 28th had been.
Jay Beagle, who left the game with 5:52 left in the second period, will need upper-body surgery. Though Trotz refused to say what the injury was, the coach said Washington’s third line center, who has tallied six goals this season, will be out “for an extended period of time.” He is expected to be placed on injured reserve shortly.
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