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When Jay Beagle had his eye-opening moment in Game 1

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When Jay Beagle had his eye-opening moment in Game 1

Jay Beagle entered this post-season with just three playoff goals in 37 games. 

So his eyes must have been the size of hubcaps when Marcus Johansson stripped Flyers left wing Jake Voracek of the puck and feathered a perfect pass onto his stick in the high slot.

“Their D kind of sank back and I was able to walk in down the middle,” said Beagle, who had a 6.5 percent shooting percentage in his playoff career. “I had a little bit of time. When you can walk down the middle like that it’s always the advantage of the shooter when you’re not rushed to throw it. I closed my eyes and it went in.”

Closed eyes or not, Beagle’s goal brought 18,506 fans at Verizon Center to their feet and sent the Caps on their way to a 2-0 win over the hard-hitting Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Goaltender Braden Holtby took care of the rest, holding the Flyers scoreless on four power plays to earn his third career playoff shutout. Holtby entered the game with the highest playoff save percentage (.936) among all NHL goaltenders and he pushed that even higher by stopping all 19 shots he faced.

Holtby said the Capitals’ would savor their Game 1 victory until they return to work Friday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

MORE CAPITALS: CAN THE PHYSICAL PLAY REALLY CONTINUE?

“I assume it’s not going to be quite like this the rest of the way,” he said, ereferring to the combined 56 hits. “I think both teams know they can’t take that many penalties in playoffs, but the physicality is still going to be there.

“We have a big goal in mind. You can’t get wrapped up in one game. You erase it right away and the less emotion you put into it, especially between the whistles, the better off you are.”

Benching Schmidt: Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt saw just three shifts in the second period and one in the third as the Caps shortened their bench. 

“He’s fine,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He was smiling after the game. I shook his hand.” 

It will be interesting to see if the Capitals keep Schmidt in the lineup for Game 2 after using him for just 7:02 in the opener. His defense partner, Dmitry Orlov, saw 11:18 of ice time and just four shifts in the third period. 

That meant the majority of ice time for the Caps’ blue line fell on Matt Niskanen (25:43), John Carlson (23:50), Karl Alzner (22:19) and Brooks Orpik (21:56) .

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise. Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Towes intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. Toews' interception led to a 2-on-0 in the second period. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal. He also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board. Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Blackhawks

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Blackhawks

The Caps were outplayed in just about every facet of the game on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. It is hard to narrow it down to just a few reasons they ultimately lost this game, but here are the most glaring.

The first period

The opening 20 minutes of this game was, to be blunt, awful. The Caps managed only nine shots attempts, six of which went on net. Chicago, meanwhile, fired 21 shots on goal with 29 total shot attempts. Washington was held to 21 shots on goal or less six times this season, so to allow 21 to an opponent in 20 minutes is not a good start. Of course, you can’t allow that many shots and escape unscathed and Washington found themselves down 3-1 at the end of the first. The Caps were outskated and sloppy with the puck and thoroughly dominated by the Blackhawks.

A bad early goal

Chicago did not need any help scoring in this one. The first goal of the game came when Jonathan Toews just threw a quick shot from the corner on net that caught Braden Holtby off guard. Holtby allowed six goals on the night, but only two of them looked soft. It was an inauspicious start to the game and a save Holtby really needed to make.

Two breakaways in the second period

A breakaway represents a breakdown in the defense. When you give up two in a span of 1:10, including a 2-on-0, that means you're not having a good night. In the second period, Brooks Orpik tried a cross-ice pass that was easily picked off by Toews that launched a 2-on-0 with him and Patrick Kane. There may not be a worse tandem in hockey to give up a 2-on-0 against than that. Just about a minute later, Ryan Hartman weaved his way through the defense to spark his own breakaway. It wasn't a good pass that launched him or a bad line change. Hartman's feet were moving and the Caps' were not. As bad as the first period was, it looked as if the Caps had stopped the bleeding as the score remained 3-1 with less than four minutes remaining in the second which is in no way is an insurmountable deficit. In the remaining four minutes, Chicago extended its lead to 6-1.

Defense

Holtby allowed six goals in this game before he was replaced by Philipp Grubauer for the start of the third period. Of those six, only two were "soft" goals Holtby should have had. The other four were the result of poor defense. The breakaways were already described in detail above. The second goal of the game came when Orpik and Madison Bowey both challenge Brandon Saad as he drove into the Caps' zone, leaving Vinnie Hinostroza to go in on net unimpeded. When Saad got the pass to him, Holtby did well to stop the initial shot, but could not get the Saad rebound shot. In the closing seconds of the first period, Holtby stopped a Carl Dahlstrom shot, but the rebound went to a wide open Nick Schmaltz who had all the space he could want to shoot in the rebound. John Carlson finished the game with a minus-3, Orpik, Bowey and Christian Djoos were minus-2 and Matt Niskanen was a minus-1.