There were a handful of reasons the Capitals failed to end the Philadelphia Flyers’ season in Game 5 on Friday night at Verizon Center.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth was at the top of that list, setting a franchise record for most saves in a playoff regulation win (44) while his team set a franchise playoff record for fewest shots on goal (11).
But there were other reasons the Caps fell 2-0 to the Flyers, forcing a Game 6 in Philadelphia on Sunday (11 a.m. Pregame Live, CSN).
Like the Caps taking most of their 44 shots from the perimeter. And … uh … well … Justin Williams taking eight minutes in penalties and being on the ice for both Flyers’ goals.
Granted, one came 3 seconds after he exited the penalty box and the other was slam-dunked into an empty net with 31 seconds to play. But …
“We can’t go to the penalty box,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We took six penalties and I think we deserved every one of them. That’s crazy. We can’t do that. We can’t be undisciplined.
“We were the more disciplined team early in the series and this game we weren’t. We had some veteran players who were careless and got penalized.”
Williams’ nightmarish evening began just 68 seconds into the game when he inadvertently clipped Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz after taking a hit from him along the boards. Williams’ high stick drew blood, giving the Flyers a 4-minute advantage.
The Caps’ penalty killers did an excellent job of shutting down the Flyers’ power play, but were forced to do it again when Williams went off for crashing into Neuvirth with 12:05 gone in the first period.
Again, the Caps killed the penalty, but Marcus Johansson took an uncharacteristic roughing penalty on Colin McDonald early in the second period and Williams took another high-sticking penalty on Claude Giroux at the 5:49 mark to give the Flyers their fourth and fifth power plays of the game.
Technically, the Flyers did not score on Williams’ third penalty of the night, but when White’s rebound shot went off the skate of Taylor Chorney and into the net, Williams had just left the sin bin and was 100 feet from the play.
“He’s an outstanding player and an outstanding leader for us,” Trotz said. “I expect him to be awesome next game. I kept going back to him (22 shifts, 16:23 ice time) because I trust him.
“He didn’t sit on the bench I trusted that he would respond the right way and I expect him to do that.”
Trotz was also unhappy with Jason Chimera’s boarding penalty on Jake Voracek, which came 6:51 into the third period with the Capitals trying to mount a comeback. That comeback fell short because of the outstanding goaltending of Neuvirth, who stopped 14 shots in the first period, 16 in the second and 14 in the third.
Trotz said he’d also like to see more production from his centers, saying, “There are some guys that have been a little quiet in this series and need to do it 5-on-5.”
Through five games, Nicklas Backstrom has one goal and five assists but just two points at even strength; Evgeny Kuznetsov has one power-play goal on 20 total shots and no points at even strength; Mike Richards has no points; and Jay Beagle has two goals, one on the power play and one at even strength.
The Capitals have crushed the Flyers in special teams in this series – they are 8-for-22 while the Flyers are 1-for-21 – but at even strength the two clubs are tied with five goals apiece. Because of that, and the Flyers’ ability to draw more penalties than they’ve taken the past two games, this first-round series has become closer than anyone expected five days ago when the Caps grabbed a 3-0 series lead.
“What we’re learning is they’ve got a resilient team on the other side,” Trotz said. “They’re getting good goaltending; they’re committed; they’re blocking shots (104 through five games) and they came in here and got a goal and we didn’t get any.
“There’s only one stat that matters at the end of the night and that’s what’s on the scoreboard.”