The Washington Capitals have made it a habit of going into overtime through the early part of the 2010-2011 season, and Sunday’s matinee with the Philadelphia Flyers was no different. The Capitals went to the extra session for the fifth time this season, and for the fifth time, they were victorious.
Mike Green’s power play goal 29 seconds into overtime gave the Capitals a 3-2 win, raising their record in overtime to a perfect 6-0-0, with just one of the five wins coming in a shootout. The win also allowed the Capitals to close out a three game homestand a perfect 3-0.
The win lifts Washington into a tie with the Flyers atop the Eastern Conference (each team has 20 points) and snapped the Flyers six-game winning streak.
Green, who’s goal was the second for the Capitals on the power play as Alexander Semin scored with the man-advantage in the second period, ripped a slap shot passed the Flyers Sergei Brobovsky from the top of the slot through traffic with the Capitals on a 5 on 4 advantage on a shot that looked like it might have changed direction on its way to the net.
The Flyers were whistled for two penalties late in the third period, the first on defenseman Chris Pronger at 16:05 for a high-stick on the Capitals David Steckel. Pronger was assessed a four minute double-minor due to his stick drawing blood from Steckel’s chin.
The second penalty came with 19 seconds left in the third period after Sean O’Donnell was whistled for boarding. Pronger’s penalty expired five second into the overtime.
"We had some chances and their goalie made some good stops," said Green, who has now scored goals in four straight games. "We were fortunate that we had the power play leading into the overtime. We definitely needed it."
The Capitals managed just a few shots with Pronger in the box, and appeared to score in the overtime on a shot that hit the post several seconds before Green’s tally. The goal was also important considering the extended power play time.
The Capitals had been on the power play for over four minutes and 20 seconds at the time of Green’s marker.
"We wanted to score more for the confidence of the power play," said Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau. "It won us the game, so it worked out."
Sunday also saw Capitals’ netminder Braden Holtby get his first career NHL start. Holtby stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced, including all eight in the third period including several chances in tight.
Holtby, who earned his first NHL win on Friday against the Boston Bruins in a relief effort, became the third straight Capitals’ goaltender to start his career 2-0-0 behind Michael Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov.
Holtby made several key stops in the third, including one on the Flyers Scott Hartnell on a rebound attempt from the goaline.
"It’s definitely huge, but on a team like this, if a goalie just kind of gives the team a chance to win, they usually are going to pull through some goals," said Holtby. "It definitely gave me a lot of confidence coming in."
The decision to start Holtby, who is just 21 years old, against a gritty team like the Flyers came as a bit of a surprise. Boudreau said the decision to start Holtby wasn’t scheduled, but after finishing the game against the Bruins, he figured Holtby had got the first start nervousness out of the way.
"I think he was a little nervous, but once they started getting some shots in the third period he made a game saving save their in that flurry," said Boudreau. "So, I think he handled himself overall really well."
The Flyers struck first on a goal by Nikolay Zherdev at 9:51 of the first period on a shot that beat Holtby to his blocker side.
Eric Fehr tied the game at 17:29 on a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Bobrovsky over his left shoulder. The goal was Fehr’s third of the season with all of them coming at Verizon Center.
After squandering consecutive power plays to start the second period, the Capitals allowed the Flyers to re-take the lead on a goal by Ville Leino at 4:04 on deflection of a Andrej Meszaros shot from the point.
Washington, however, did not squander it’s third power play chance as Semin put home a shot off a pretty pass from Nicklas Backstrom in the mid-slot at 8:54. Alex Ovechkin’s shot from the left circle was stopped, but the rebound came right to Backstrom, who saw Semin unguarded in the slot and quickly passed him the puck.
Holtby held the Flyers at bay in the third, which allowed Green’s heroics in overtime.
"We’re in the mix," said Boudreau of the Capitals current spot in the standings. "Not saying we’re better or worse, but we’re in the mix that we can compete against the better teams."