Vrana Flies vs FlyerVille, Copley good - AGAIN, Caps PP Scores!
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The struggling Philadelphia Flyers held up early but did not have the horses to keep up with the Washington Capitals scoring depth losing 5-3 as Jakub Vrana starred in the game and had 2 goals and an assist to lead the Caps past their Metro division foe at Capital One Arena in DC Tuesday night. Goaltender Pheonix Copley continued to impress while filling in for Braden Holtby making 37 saves for his 10th victory of the season.
It marks the 8th-straight loss for the Flyers who started their seventh goaltender of the year in Mike Mckenna. The same McKenna whom the Caps had beaten in Ottawa as he was acquired on January 4th off waivers from Vancouver after being traded by the Sens to the Canucks days earlier.
Center Nicklas Backstrom did not play as he was a late scratch due to illness and coach Todd Rierden slotted Lars Eller into the second line center role as he did in last years Cup run. The line with TJ Oshie and Jakub Vrana looked good and combined for 5 points.
The Capitals came out slow against the Flyers who had played the night previous and were outshot 11-4 in the first period. Despite that, the Caps went up 1-0 when Tom Wilson would score his 13th of the year on a nice feed from Vrana to make it 1-0 at 4:21. He had beaten the Flyers defense down the left side and fed a net-charging Wilson who deflected in the centering pass.
Continuing his hot play all season long, Wilson is now just one goal away from a career-high 14 goals set last year. He has done it in only 23 games. Very impressive for a player who took a lot of heat outside DC when he signed his new contract last summer.
It was a quickly played first period and the Flyers would tie it up on a bad giveaway by Caps defenseman Michal Kempney at 9:28. Jakub Voracek beat Copley making it 1-1 after Oskar Lindholm retrieved the Kempney errant pass and fed the puck to the slot where Voracek buried a one-timer for his 11th of the year. The Caps had 14 giveaways in the sloppy affair while coming away with 14 turnovers from the Flyers.
The Capitals second periods have been their best throughout the season and tonight was no different. While it took halfway through the frame they would score three goals in just over 7 minutes to close out the period. TJ Oshie scored his 12th at 9:19 on a nifty tip off an Eller wrist shot that Flyers goalie McKenna had no chance of giving the Caps there second lead of the game 2-1.
Just over two minutes later at 11:22, Vrana made a beautiful play as he stole the puck from Claude Giroux at the Caps blueline and transitioned with his speed the other way. He would cut in a put the puck over McKenna’s right shoulder making it 3-1 in a goal reminiscent of a goal he scored earlier in the year vs the Rangers.
It was his 13th goal and 21st point and marked a new career high for the speedster and he’s also quickly approaching his career-best point total of 27 set last year.
Washington’s power play was on a horrendous skid coming in but Vrana would get his second goal of the night on the board with the Caps 3rd power play of the game giving them a 4-1 lead heading to the 3rd. His 14th goal was not as pretty as his earlier tally, but it would prove to be needed later.
Registering only 8 shots on goal in the third the Caps looked like they wanted to just let the clock run out on a three-goal lead. The Flyers, to their credit, kept pushing and Wayne Simmonds would bring the visitors within two at 16:33 with his 13th and then Claude Giroux netted his 14th at 19:53 to make it a 4-3 game. It’s precisely why the Vrana tally late in the second became so important.
Alas, it was too little too late for Philadelphia and TJ Oshie would score his 200th career goal into an empty net for the 5-3 win.
Once again the Capitals were dominated in the face-off circle winning only 29.7% of the draws. Eller had a rough night winning only 8 of 19 with Travis Boyd, put into the 3rd line role with Backstrom out, going a paltry 2-13. How did the Caps number one center do you ask?? Evgeny Kuznetsov was absolutely schooled going 1-14. The loss of Beagle has hurt the Caps and without Backstrom tonight they were completely overmatched. Hopefully, coach Reirden can get more push from his wingers off the draw to help out, because they are too good to be dead last in the NHL.
From the coach’s mouth…
The Capitals next game is Thursday night when they go to the TD Garden in Boston to face a hot Bruins team. Game time is 7 PM EST.