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Thursday's game between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia was heavily promoted as a match-up between two of the Eastern Conference and NHL's best teams through the first two weeks of the season. For 40 minutes, it looked that way. The last 20 minutes, however, looked anything but.
The Caps opened up the floodgates with three goals within 2:25 early in the third period en route to a 5-2 rout of the Flyers.
The Flyers actually had a 1-0 lead late in the first period on Claude Giroux's breakaway goal, but the Caps scored five unanswered goals in two quick spurts. Mathieu Perreault and Alex Ovechkin scored 1:08 apart at the end of the first period to give the Caps the lead for good at 2-1. After no scoring in the second period, Roman Hamrlik, Ovechkin and Joel Ward scored 2:25 apart to blow the Flyers out. Hamrlik and Ward scored their first goals of the season and as members of the Caps, while Ovechkin scored his second of the night and third of the season.
Tomas Vokoun had yet another stellar performance, making 40 saves for his fifth straight win. After giving up five goals in his debut last Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vokoun has allowed five goals in his last four starts.
With Washington's win and the Boston Bruins' win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Caps are the only team in the East unbeaten in regulation. The 6-0-0 Caps return home Saturday to play the Detroit Red Wings in yet another marquee match-up at Verizon Center.
The Flyers had 14 shots to the Caps' 10 and all 24 were saved by Tomas Vokoun and Ilya Bryzgalov, respectively, but both teams had quality scoring chances. The Caps thought they had taken a 3-1 lead late in the period when Nicklas Backstrom scored on Alex Ovechkin's rebound, but the referee waved it off when he ruled that Ovechkin had made incidental contact with Bryzgalov.
Philadelphia had the edge in puck possession throughout the second period and had several prolonged opportunities in the offensive zone, but Vokoun kept the Caps in the game with stellar goaltending.
The Caps' first golden opportunity to take the lead came when Braydon Coburn's high sticking penalty on Brooks Laich became a double minor when it caused the latter to bleed. Yet, 39 seconds later, Ovechkin interfered with Maxime Talbot behind the Caps' goal, which nullified their four-minute advantage. Giroux scored his fifth goal of the season during the ensuing 4-on-4 play when Wayne Simmonds pressured Alexander Semin at the point and knocked the puck away. Giroux corralled the loose puck at the blueline and used three dekes to beat Tomas Vokoun with a wrist shot that gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 14:25.
Perreault tied the game with 1:20 left in the period when he picked off Scott Hartnell's outlet pass and threw the puck on net. Perreault's shot deflected off Coburn and past Ilya Bryzgalov for his first goal of the season.
Ovechkin gave the Caps a 2-1 lead just 1:08 later when the rebound of Nicklas Backstrom's stuff attempt came right to him in the crease for the easy put-back.
Shots are tied at 11-11.
The Washington Capitals will face off against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first of two major early-season tests this week. The second test comes against the Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center on Saturday. The first test, though, comes against a Flyers team that has yet to lose a regular-season game this season. Here is everything you need to know about the game.
Who: Washington Capitals (5-0-0, 10 points) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (4-0-1, nine points)
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.
When: 7 p.m.
TV Information: Locally, the game will be broadcasted on Comcast Sports Net, with Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin. The game is also available on NHL Network.
Radio: Capitals Radio 1500.
Notable developments: Michal Neuvirth is out for the Capitals, so Tomas Vokoun will get the start in goal. Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is Russian and doesn't know who Alex Ovechkin is. Some guy named Jaromir Jagr is playing against his former team.
We'll have more updates about Thursday's game in this StoryStream. Remember to visit Japers' Rink and SB Nation D.C. for complete Capitals coverage. Broad Street Hockey and SB Nation Philly offer the perspective from the Penguins' side.
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Brouwer
Semin - Johansson - Knuble
Chimera - Laich - Ward
Hendricks - Perreault - Halpern
Another player that did not make the trip is Jay Beagle, who has not been seen since last Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Beagle's now-infamous fight with the Penguins' Arron Asham has kept him out of both games and practices since.
Via The Washington Post's Katie Carrera, when asked point blank whether Beagle has a concussion, head coach Bruce Boudreau was cryptic in his response:
"You can infer whatever you want to infer," Boudreau said. "We're just saying it's day to day."
When originally asked about Beagle's status the day after his fight, Boudreau said that "other than a fat lip," Beagle was fine. Yet, a scratch like that would not keep a player, especially one like Beagle, out of the lineup for a week.
Through five games this season, the Washington Capitals have one played one road game, which happened to take place in a hostile environment in Pittsburgh. Thursday, the Caps will play their second road game of the season in yet another hostile environment when they face off against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center in a matchup between two of the Eastern Conference's best teams.
Washington enters Thursday's game at 5-0-0, the first in franchise history that it has started the season with five consecutive wins. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is one of two other teams in the East (Toronto Maple Leafs) that have yet to lose in regulation this season at 4-0-1. The Flyers are led by Claude Giroux, who has flourished in his new role as first line center, with seven points. His linemates, James van Riemsdyk and former Cap Jaromir Jagr, both have four points.
The Caps will likely start Tomas Vokoun for the fifth consecutive game, while the Flyers should start Ilya Bryzgalov. Both goalies have had great starts to the season. Bryzgalov is 3-0-1 with a 1.99 GAA and .927 SV%, quite similar to Vokoun's 4-0-0 record with a 1.94 GAA and .935 SV%.
Alex Ovechkin missed practice Wednesday with "bumps and bruises," according to head coach Bruce Boudreau, but it did not sound like anything serious and Ovechkin should be in the lineup Thursday.
Alex Ovechkin missed Wednesday's practice with "bumps and bruises" in what head coach Bruce Boudreau called a "maintenance day."