Brett Connolly scored twice and added an assist in a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday for Washington's eighth win in nine games.
With the win, the Caps maintained its two-point cushion over the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Here are five reasons Washington won.
The third line
Brett Connolly was easily the player of the game with two goals and an assist. It was his fourth career two-goal game and his third three-point game. He opened the scoring early in the first period and made it 3-1 in the second period off a great individual effort. Connolly stole the puck from Phillippe Myers at the defensive blue line and led the rush back up ice. Once he entered the offensive zone, he was looking for the pass, but with no open options, he elected to keep it and fire it himself and it resulted in his second goal of the game.
Lars Eller also scored in the first period as the third line scored each of Washington’s first three goals. The bottom-six was really the story of the game as the fourth line had a dominant night as well.
The first period
Strong starts for the Caps have been key to their success against Philadelphia and Thursday was no exception. Connolly put Washington up less than three minutes into the game with his first goal. The Caps have now scored in less than six minutes in all three matchups against the Flyers this season. Eller would add a second goal to make it 2-0.
The Caps outscored the Flyers 5-1 in the first period this season.
John Carlson’s hand-eye coordination
Connolly’s first goal does not happen if not for some great hand-eye coordination from Carlson. A shot from Carlson was slowed by a Ryan Hartman block and the puck trickled to Shayne Gostisbehere who tried to clear. Carlson swatted the puck out of mid-air and did so without getting his stick too high to avoid a high-sticking call. The puck went to Michal Kempny who quick delivered it to Connolly who had gotten lost behind the defense along the red line. He fired the puck behind the back of Hart and into the yawning net. It’s a play that never happens without Carlson swatting the puck out of the air.
Tom Wilson’s 20th
In all three games against the Flyers, the Caps have gotten off to a good start. In all three games, they allowed Philadelphia back into the game. On Jan. 8, the Caps took a 4-1 lead and allowed the Flyers to pull within one before finishing the game with an empty netter to make it 5-3. On March 6, Washington was routing the Flyers 5-0, but still allowed Philadelphia back into the game and finished with the 5-3 win.
After the Caps took a 2-0 lead after the first, James van Riemsdyk made it 2-1 early in the second. Connolly’s second goal re-established the two-goal lead, but it was Tom Wilson’s goal that really put the game out of reach.
Dmitry Orlov delivered the puck on a slap pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov on the far side near the goal line. Goalie Carter Hart slid aggressively out to try to defend the Kuznetsov shot and his momentum carried him completely out of the net. Kuznetsov patiently saw Hart out of position and fed it back to the slot for Wilson to shoot on the empty net.
The goal was Wilson’s 20th giving him the first 20-goal season of his career.
The penalty kill
Philadelphia had a chance to climb back into the game in the third period as the Caps gave up three straight power plays. The penalty kill, however, was absolutely brilliant when the team needed it the most.
How great has Carl Hagelin been? He has seemingly transformed the penalty kill and his prowess in that area of the game was very much on display on Thursday. On one shift, Hagelin managed to chase the puck after a clear and beat out the Flyers to it behind the goal line, allowing him to kill off more time as Philadelphia desperately tried to get the puck off his stick. While killing a penalty to Nicklas Backstrom, Hagelin and Eller were on for 1:56 as the Caps could not get the puck deep enough for a line change. Just 35 seconds after killing off the Backstrom penalty, Nick Jensen was called for interference and Hagelin and Eller were called upon again despite just having played almost the entire length of the last penalty.
For the game, the Caps killed off all four power plays they faced.
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- Caps Mailbag: Why Hagelin and Jensen have fit in so seamlessly