PHILADELPHIA - There were butt ends to midsections, gloved face washes and checks from behind. Capitals coach Barry Trotz often talks about being pulled into battle and in Wednesday night’s 2-1 shootout loss in South Philadelphia, the Caps had themselves a nice little street fight with the Flyers.
“As the game ramped up there was some cheap stuff going on,” Trotz said.
The cheapest among them, at least according to the Capitals, was Sean Couturier intentionally slamming into Caps goalie Braden Holtby 2:56 into overtime. Holtby, who’s had his share of crease collisions this season, reacted by wrestling Couturier to the ice.
Holtby was given a roughing minor; Couturier was called for goalie interference.
“I knew that wasn’t going to get called,” Holtby said of Couturier’s body contact. “It’s clear interference and they never call that, even when it should be. So I was just trying to stick up for myself.”
“It happens every game,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I think (opposing teams) talk about it because he’s a good goalie. That’s up to the refs to decide.”
Trotz went so far as to suggest that referees Ghislain Hebert and Brian Pochmara simply didn’t want to deal with the reaction of an angry Philadelphia crowd if they gave the Capitals a second power play in overtime.
“In that situation I would probably say the referee wasn’t going to call that,” Trotz said. “He wants to get out of Philadelphia.”
With the win the Flyers gained sole possession of the eighth and final playoff seed in the East. They are two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings with a game in hand, and just two points behind the seventh seeded Islanders, who have a game in hand on the Flyers.
But if the Capitals hope to beat the Flyers in a potential playoff series, Holtby said they’ll need to play better than they did Wednesday night, when they were outhit and outshot by 34-30 margins.
“They came hard,” Holtby said. “They got under our skin a little bit and I thought we let the refs get under our skin, too. In intense affairs like that you have to be a mature group and not get upset with things and we can do a better job next time.
“I thought we played all right. I thought they were probably the better team tonight. We have to realize that and know we have a lot more to give than that, especially against a possible first-round opponent. We need to be better and we will be.”
Backstrom, who rang a shot off the left post in overtime, and Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 44th goal of the season early in the third period, agreed.
“I don’t think we answered their intensity,” Backstrom said. “I think we played at our own pace. I think we’ve got one more level to get to.”
“Not a lot of scoring, but I think we enjoyed the battle,” Ovechkin said. “The crowd was into it. Those are the kinds of game it’s going to be in the playoffs.”
Especially if the Caps happen to meet their divisional and geographical rivals to the north.
“The biggest difference between the two teams was probably the desperation level of Philadelphia,” Trotz said. “Ours probably wasn’t as high and it probably shouldn’t be, human nature and all that. But they battled hard and you can see why they’ve racked up a pretty good record.
“We’ll have to be really disciplined in the playoffs. It was good for us. Now we’re just trying to get to the finish line and be ready.”
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