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.
“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) .