Nicklas Backstrom scores in OT as Capitals drop Philly Flyers, 2-1
WASHINGTON — The Capitals and Flyers tried to pummel each other out of the gate Saturday night, then Washington settled things on special teams.
The Caps again shut down Philadelphia’s potent power play, and then Nicklas Backstrom scored with a man advantage in overtime to lift Washington over the Flyers 2-1 in another contentious showdown between bitter rivals.
Amid all the pushing, shoving and yapping, the Capitals extended their franchise-record home winning streak to 15 by killing off all six Flyers power plays just to reach overtime.
“In order to be successful against them, you’ve got to limit the zone time, and we did that for the majority of the time,” said goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 30 of the 31 shots, including all seven while short-handed. “When they get in zone, they have some options, some dangerous players. We limited that, so I think that’s a big reason why we were successful.”
The Capitals’ penalty kill improved to 15 of 15 against the Flyers after going 22 of 23 in the teams’ playoff series last spring that sparked the animosity on display Saturday night. With the ice partially to blame after basketball games Friday night and Saturday afternoon, neither power play could get much going.
That is, until Backstrom beat Steve Mason 3:25 into overtime for his 20th goal of the season. Backstrom saw that Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie — who returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury — were covered and decided to shoot, and the result was his sixth career overtime goal.
Dmitry Orlov scored for the Capitals and Sean Couturier for the Flyers in regulation. Orlov’s goal gave him 29 points on the season, tying a career high, while Couturier’s was his first since Feb. 2.
With the victory, Washington padded its lead atop the NHL and hurt Philadelphia’s long-shot playoff chances. The Flyers are three points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 18 games remaining.
“Unfortunately we weren’t able to get that second one,” said Mason, who stopped 22 of 24 shots. “It would have been a big one. Overall I think we played a real good game though. We left one out there.”
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol was pleased with his team’s effort and displeased with the penalty call on defenseman Michael Del Zotto for holding in overtime that paved the way for Backstrom’s goal. It was the 12th minor penalty of the game.
“I don’t like it,” Hakstol said. “I think it’s two guys battling for position.”
The Flyers got a scare in the second period when Jakub Voracek briefly left the game after taking a forearm to the head from Justin Williams. Voracek said he believed a league concussion spotter pulled him from the game, but he returned for the third.
Williams’ hit on Voracek was just one part of the chippy play, which began with pushing and shoving in the first minute and escalated quickly. Capitals disturber extraordinaire Tom Wilson and big Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds even spent an entire commercial timeout yapping at each other by the benches, which is just par for the course with these teams.
“Obviously it’s a good rival,” Capitals forward Jay Beagle said. “It’s fun to play against these guys. It’s physical and easy to get up for games against these guys.”
NOTES: Top-line mates Ovechkin and Backstrom combined for one point in Oshie’s absence. … Flyers F Travis Konecny returned after missing nine games with a leg injury, playing on the fourth line as Hakstol tried to ease him back into action.
Flyers: Continue their long-shot playoff push when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
Capitals: Look to make it 16 in a row at home when they host the Dallas Stars on Monday.