(The Sports Xchange) - The Wells Fargo Center erupted after a moving tribute and spirited play from the home team led to a first-minute goal Monday.
However, the Washington Capitals weathered the early storm, dominated the special teams battle yet again, got great goaltending from Braden Holtby and beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-1, putting a 3-0 stranglehold on the Eastern Conference first-round playoff matchup.
“It’s not over yet,” said captain Alexander Ovechkin, whose three-point night pushed him ahead of Dale Hunter for the most playoff points (73) in Capitals franchise history. “We have to forget about it and move forward.”
It is the first time the Capitals ever held a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven playoff series, and they can thank their special teams.
Washington, the league’s best team, got five goals on the man advantage, bumping their series total up to 8-for-17 on the power play. Meanwhile, with the help of Holtby, who made 31 saves, the Caps held the Flyers scoreless on five power plays. Philadelphia is now 0-for-13 with the man advantage.
“The power play has lots of confidence,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “And they (the Flyers) give us lots of practice.”
The Capitals led 2-1 after two periods after Ovechkin beat Steve Mason with a wrist shot from the right circle 8:50 into the middle frame.
The Caps put the game away in the third.
Evgeny Kuznetsov took advantage of a generous bounce off a Justin Williams clearing attempt to put the Capitals up 3-1 at 1:58 of the third period just before a slashing penalty to Brayden Schenn was coming to an end. The puck was being wrapped around the boards and squirted right in front of Mason, allowing Kuznetsov to score in tight.
“It’s the first time it’s happened to us in a long time,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “It took the wind out of our sails. We just weren’t able to recover from that.”
John Carlson, who had two assists, then beat Mason with a slap shot on the power play with 12:23 to play, pushing the lead to 4-1.
Flyers forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was issued a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for hitting Dmitry Orlov from behind with 7:43 left. A melee ensued, and it ended with misconducts to both sides and Flyers fans throwing onto the ice bracelets that were handed out before the game.
Ovechkin scored on the ensuing power play, upping the lead to 5-1. Fans threw more bracelets onto the ice after the goal, and the Flyers were given a two-minute delay-of-game penalty.
“Whatever, I love Philly fans,” said winger Ryan White, who received a 10-minute misconduct in the scrum and earlier knocked Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik from the game with a second-period hit against the boards. “I’d have done it, too.”
His teammate, Wayne Simmonds, didn’t share the same sentiment.
“I know they’re upset in that situation,” he said. “But that can’t happen.”
Jay Beagle got in on the fun, adding the fourth power-play goal of the period. By that point, much of the crowd had left and there weren’t many bracelets left to throw.
“Obviously we pulled the game away and they weren’t interested in playing anymore,” Trotz said. “I just thought it wasn’t good for the game. Plain and simple. I don’t think it displays our game very well.”
The Flyers came out attacking from the opening faceoff after an emotional tribute honoring their late chairman, Ed Snider.
The Wells Fargo Center crowd was electric, and the Flyers responded by scoring 57 seconds into the game. A point shot by Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning through traffic ended up on the stick of Michael Raffl, who beat Holtby to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead.
However, Simmonds took the energy out of the building 4:28 into the period by taking a holding minor that put the Flyers’ penalty kill to work. Washington’s power play stayed hot, scoring 15 seconds into the man-advantage when Marcus Johansson redirected a shot past Mason, who finished with 21 saves, to even the score at 1-1.
“We stayed to our gameplan and script,” Trotz said. “We took their best punch.”