A year ago, the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs at least in part because their power play ran dry, going six straight games without a goal against the New York Rangers and finishing the post-season 3-for-28.
After that series defeat, Capitals coach Barry Trotz conducted an “autopsy” on his team and found that maybe they had become too predictable on the man-advantage.
“That was one area we wanted to make sure we had more adjustments against different kinds of penalty kills,” Trotz said. “We sort of built a foundation of being able to adjust.”
The Flyers have made a concerted effort not to let Alex Ovechkin beat them on the power play, which has left time and space for defenseman John Carlson to blast two power-play goals through traffic and behind Flyers goaltender Steve Mason.
Carlson’s goal Saturday night came after Philadelphia defenseman Nick Schultz lost his stick while trying to defend Ovechkin.
And when Ovechkin finally lit the lamp to give the Caps a 3-1 advantage late in the second period, it was an other-worldly pass from Nicklas Backstrom that found its way through the legs of T.J. Oshie and onto the waiting stick of Ovechkin.
Oshie wasn’t sure what to think when he felt the puck whiz through his skates.
“My mind was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to catch this,” Oshie said. “And when it went right through my legs I was like, ‘This is probably going to O.’ Pure passer, world-class player.”
Marcus Johansson said he believes only one player on the planet could have made that pass.
“I guess he saw through him,” Johansson said. “It’s what he does. Best passer in the league, I think.”
“He’s a guy who sees the ice and he feels when he has to make a pass and when not,” Ovechkin said.
Backstrom was asked if he really meant to place the puck through Oshie’s skates and onto the blade of Ovechkin, who rifled his 37th career playoff goal past Mason.
“Uh, yeah,” Backstrom said with a giggle. “It was the only lane open so I could hit Ovi’s sweet spot.”
And now the Capitals take the positive vibes from a pair of home wins to Philadelphia, where they’ll face the Flyers in Game 3 on Monday night.
“I think our game wasn’t where it needed to be,” Trotz said of his team’s overall effort. “We weren’t able to do some things we wanted to. I think we can get better as the series goes on.”
If that happens, the series could be over before it begins.
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