Washington Capitals

Flyers-Capitals observations: 3-goal 2nd sparks home-opening rout

Flyers-Capitals observations: 3-goal 2nd sparks home-opening rout

BOX SCORE

The Flyers made clear Saturday it's a new season.

With the Washington Capitals in town for the 2017-18 home opener, the Flyers put an 8-2 whipping on the back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning bunch.

A lively Wells Fargo Center witnessed a relentless brand of offensive hockey that never let up, and it wasn't from the visiting Capitals, who had hung a pair of defeats like this on the Flyers last season.

This time, this season, the Flyers showed they're capable of dishing it out, too.

Sean Couturier (two goals, one assist), Claude Giroux (two goals, two assists), Shayne Gostisbehere (three assists), Scott Laughton (two goals), Jakub Voracek (three assists) and Wayne Simmonds (one goal, one assist) all produced multipoint efforts as the Flyers moved to 3-2-0 to commence a five-game homestand.

Impressively, the last time the Flyers scored eight or more goals in a home opener was 1982, when they tallied nine.

The Capitals, playing the second game of a back-to-back set, dropped to 3-2-1.

This marked the first meeting of a four-game season series between the Metropolitan Division teams.

Now, let's get into some observations:

• Voracek looked filthy with the puck in creating a point-blank chance for Simmonds on a second-period power play as the Flyers snared a 3-1 lead. Give Voracek some space with a head of steam, and he'll make plays.

Voracek has nine assists through five games and was buzzing Saturday. Not long after Simmonds' goal, he made a stunning fake for separation and another good look, this one to Laughton, who missed wide. No problem, though, because the Flyers scored moments later when Giroux deflected home his first of the game off a Couturier pass. The first line of Giroux, Couturier and Voracek was thoroughly dominant, and when it is, the Flyers will be tough outs.

• If Giroux has lost a step at all, his vision, however, hasn't gone anywhere. The Flyers' game-opening goal at 7:18 of the first period all started with Giroux making a magnificent cross-ice pass to a streaking Voracek, who found Couturier opposite in front. Couturier's first shot didn't go but he was able to corral the rebound and put it home. None of it happens without an igniter from Giroux, who is one assist shy of 400 for his career. In the third period, Couturier and Giroux each tacked on their second tallies as the rout went into high gear.

There's no arguing the Flyers' big three came up small against this Capitals team last season. Giroux, Simmonds and Voracek combined for two points in four matchups with Washington. The trio was a different animal Saturday, delivering three goals and six assists for nine points. What an answer in the home opener.

• Weal really got after it late in the second period to help extend the Flyers' lead to 5-2. He maneuvered his way into the offensive zone with the puck and then made a nice hesitation to set up Valtteri Filppula's third goal of the season.

Weal is off to a promising start and that goal was important because it came after the Capitals made it a 4-2 game a little less than seven minutes prior.

• Mr. Laughton, take a bow. The rejuvenated fourth-liner netted a pair of goals. Before Saturday, Laughton hadn't scored an NHL goal since April 10, 2016. And good for him, because he worked hard at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last season and seems to have found himself in 2017-18, adopting his new role.

He made a heady play near the end of the first period by skating hard, attacking the puck carrier and forcing a turnover to score a shorthanded goal, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead. It was eerily similar to a certain goal in the past …

• Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom entered as the NHL's early leaders with 10 points apiece. They combined for just one goal and one assist.

• Brian Elliott was solid in net with 21 saves. Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer was lit up and still made 29 saves. The Flyers were all over him.

• The Flyers held a touching moment of silence for those affected by the deadly shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month. "Vegas Strong" flashed across the ice and chants of "U-S-A" broke out once the moment of silence concluded. Also, all proceeds from the Flyers' 50/50 raffle held throughout the Wells Fargo Center are benefiting victim relief efforts. Beautiful job by the Flyers and fans.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice Monday and then host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (7 p.m./NBCSP) for Game 2 of the five-game homestand.

Flyers-Capitals thoughts: Can big boys change trend vs. Washington in home opener?

Flyers-Capitals thoughts: Can big boys change trend vs. Washington in home opener?

Updated: 11:35 a.m.

Flyers (2-2-0) vs. Capitals (3-1-1)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6

The Flyers are one of two NHL teams still yet to play a game in their own digs.

But that changes Saturday night.

The 2017-18 home opener is finally here as the Flyers welcome the Washington Capitals to the Wells Fargo Center after opening with four straight road games.

Let's get you set for puck drop with some thoughts before Game 5 of the season.

• Beginning with the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals have become a major thorn in the sides of the Flyers' big boys. In four games against Washington last season, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek combined for one goal and one assist. In the first-round playoff series defeat two seasons ago, the four totaled a pair of goals and four assists in six games.

The Flyers are much deeper this season, but Giroux, Gostisbehere, Simmonds and Voracek remain the offensive focal points. They've been neutralized and outplayed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, while goalie Braden Holtby has represented a nemesis.

Can Giroux and company start to shift the unbalance? It must happen if the Flyers want to be more competitive with the Capitals this season, starting Saturday.

• Speaking of the Capitals, following more postseason failure, they're off to another hot start and look dangerous as usual, led by who else but Ovechkin. The Russian sniper scored 33 goals last season after three straight campaigns of 50 or more. Just when you thought maybe this was the start of him slowing down, the 32-year-old rips off nine goals in his first five games this season. Ovechkin, Backstrom and Kuznetsov are the NHL's early leaders with 10 points apiece.

• One positive for the Flyers is they haven't played since Tuesday. Meanwhile, Washington played the Penguins on Wednesday (lost, 3-2) and the Devils last night (won, 5-2), making Saturday the second game of a back-to-back set for the Capitals. The Flyers should have fresh legs and shouldn't be lacking for energy provided it's the home opener coming off a frustrating 6-5 loss in Nashville.

• Although it's early, we're already starting to see the benefits of the Flyers' improved depth. Through the team's first four games last season, six players had scored goals. This season, nine Flyers have already tallied a marker. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick playing third-line roles? Those are first-round picks at 20 and 19 years old, respectively, giving the Flyers playmaking threats in the bottom six, something we didn't see much of at all in 2016-17 (see story). Just think about Tuesday's game. The Flyers nearly won a 6-5 slugfest against the defending Western Conference champs without a goal from Giroux, Gostisbehere, Simmonds, Voracek, Ivan Provorov, Jordan Weal and Sean Couturier. That's a good sign.

• The Flyers have lost four of their last five home openers. In order to win this one, they'll want to play with controlled aggression and puck discipline.

"Don't turn pucks over,” Simmonds said Friday of the Capitals (see story). "That's when they hurt you. They have a lot of offensive firepower on that team."

As the Flyers have seen, Washington is a team that doesn't need help to score. When it gets it, it tends to take advantage. The Flyers have already allowed five power-play goals for a 70.6 penalty-kill percentage, tied for 30th in the NHL.

• The Flyers' morning skate in Voorhees, New Jersey, was optional. Brian Elliott took the typical preparation of the starter and was the first off the ice, signaling he'll be between the pipes. Elliott is 6-5-0 with a 3.31 GAA and .888 save percentage in 13 lifetime matchups with Washington. Michal Neuvirth is 1-1-0 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in three games against his former team. He was strong against the Capitals in the 2016 playoffs.

• Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen suffered an upper-body injury Friday and was placed on long-term injured reserve.

Best of NHL: Nicklas Backstrom racks up 4 points as Capitals top Devils

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Best of NHL: Nicklas Backstrom racks up 4 points as Capitals top Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and three assists and the Washington Capitals knocked the surprising New Jersey Devils from the unbeaten ranks with a 5-2 victory Friday night.

T.J. Oshie had two goals and an assist, and Alex Ovechkin scored his ninth of the season and set up Backstrom's power-play tally to help Washington hand New Jersey its first loss in four games.

Jacub Vrana also scored for the Capitals, and Braden Holtby had 21 saves. Washington is 8-0-1 in its last nine games against New Jersey.

Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri scored for the Devils, who had surprised many with their quick start after finishing in the basement in the Eastern Conference last season. Cory Schneider made 23 saves, getting beat three times on the power play (see full recap).

Anderson, Senators rout Flames
CALGARY, Alberta -- Craig Anderson made 25 saves for his first shutout of the season and 39th overall in the Ottawa Senators' 6-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday night.

Cody Ceci, Mark Stone and Derrick Brassard each had a goal and an assist, Mike Hoffman, Ryan Dzingel and Chris Wideman also scored, and Kyle Turris had three assists.

Mike Smith was pulled from Calgary's net after giving up five goals on 22 shots in 47:48. Eddie Lack mopped up the final eight minutes, giving up Wideman's goal.

The Flames were shut out for the second time this season. After being blanked 3-0 in Edmonton in their opener, they had won three straight.

Anderson's best stop came early in the third. Matthew Tkachuk got behind the defense but, as he went to his backhand, Anderson closed the pads. Four of his stops came against Jaromir Jagr in the 45-year-old's home debut. Jagr's best chance came when he was set up from behind the net by Sam Bennett (see full recap).

Blue Jackets rally to beat Rangers
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Artemi Panarin and Seth Jones scored to rally the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

Zach Werenski had two assists and Lukas Sedlak added an empty-net goal for Columbus.

Panarin, acquired from Chicago in the offseason, got his first goal with the Blue Jackets. He snaked through the defense and beat goaltender Henrik Lundqvist between the pads 7:25 into the third for a 2-1 lead. He's tied for the team lead with four points.

Sergei Bobrovsky had 37 saves for Columbus, and Lundqvist stopped 40 shots.

Kevin Hayes scored for New York with 5:25 left in the first period. Hayes intercepted Jones' drop pass and charged on a breakaway, beating Bobrovsky on his glove side.

Jones made amends with 45 seconds left in the second by snapping a shot from the left wall that hit the Rangers' Mika Zibanejad in the shin. Lundqvist was caught lunging the other way, and the deflected shot bounced in off the post to make it 1-1.

The Blue Jackets opened the third with an 11-0 shot advantage in the first six minutes but couldn't solve Lundqvist until Panarin broke the tie (see full recap).