Oct. 14 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center
Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 3-1-1
Philadelphia Flyers 2-2-0
On Saturday night in Philadelphia, the Caps their first set of back-to-back games this season as well as a stretch of three straight games against Metropolitan Division opponents when they take on the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
Washington's first multi-game road trip of the season got off to a mostly good start on Friday night in Newark as the Caps rolled to a 5-2 win over the previously undefeated Devils in New Jersey. T.J. Oshie scored twice, Nicklas Backstrom had a four-point night, and the Washington power play struck for three goals.
But all of the news from Newark was not good on this Friday, the 13th. The Caps lost defenseman Matt Niskanen to an upper body injury late in the second period, and his status is currently unknown, with more information expected on Saturday morning when Washington convenes for an optional morning skate.
With the Caps' Friday night win over the Devils, they've claimed at least a point (2-0-1) in each of their first three road games of the season, and they've done so in a month of October in which they'll play eight of 12 on the road.
The Capitals led 1-0 after the first and 3-1 after the second of Friday night's game, thanks to a Jakub Vrana goal in the final minute of the middle frame. Earlier in the week, the Caps coughed up a two-goal lead on the road against the Lightning in Tampa, watching a 3-1 advantage late in the second period morph into a 4-3 overtime setback.
Washington admitted to sitting back too much late in that loss to the Lightning, but the Caps also vowed that it would not happen again.
"We talked about it between the second and the third [of Friday's game]," says Oshie, "about coming out with more momentum. That goal at the end [of the second] there by [Vrana] helped us stay in the game. It was very important. I think it was the most important goal of the game."
The importance of Vrana's goal in the last minute of the second was magnified in the first minute of the third when New Jersey's Kyle Palmieri scored to make it 3-2. But Washington cashed in on both ends of a double minor in the third, which took the starch out of any designs the Devils may have had on making a comeback. Friday's game was more characteristic of recent vintage Washington teams locking down late leads.
"Absolutely, even if I was a little worried when [Palmieri] scored to make it 3-2 there," says Backstrom. "It was nice that we came back right away and scored on the power play."
The Caps got power-play goals from Alex Ovechkin, Oshie and Backstrom e route to the victory, and they're now 6-for-17 (35.3%) with the extra man on the young season, tops in the league. The Caps have had two games with multiple power-play goals this season, both of them coming on the road.
Ovechkin now has nine goals in five games, the best start of his NHL career. He has scored in four of Washington's five games in 2017-18. Ovechkin is one of just four players to score as many as nine goals in the season's first five games since 1967-68. He joins Mike Bossy (1984-85), Mario Lemieux (1988-89) and Patrick Marleau (2012-13) on that short and elite list.
Although Ovechkin has accounted for a significant portion of the Capitals' early season offensive production, he has had some company in that regard, too. Evgeny Kuznetsov has supplied the primary helper for most of Ovechkin's tallies, and Kuznetsov is the first player in franchise history to amass as many as 10 helpers in the first five games of a season.
Backstrom (two goals, eight assists) is averaging a couple of points per game, and he has had assists in four straight games, with three multiple-assist games among them. Linemate Oshie has netted five goals in five games for the fastest start of his 10-year NHL career.
Philadelphia started its season on the road, out in California. On the way back east, they stopped in Nashville. The Flyers fared well on the journey, taking two of three in the Golden State before falling 6-5 to the Predators in Music City on Tuesday night. The Flyers have been idle since, and they'll host the Caps on Saturday in their home opener for 2017-18.
For the Flyers, Saturday's game kicks off a five-game homestand, matching the team's longest of the season. It's the fifth time in Philly's half century history in the league that the Capitals have supplied the opposition for the Flyers' home opener. The last time was in 2009-10, when Philly prevailed in a 6-5 overtime barnburner.
Ovechkin and Alexander Semin scored twice each for the Capitals, while Mike Richards had a hat trick for Philadelphia, scoring twice on the power play. The Caps led 5-4 midway through he third, but Scott Hartnell tied it on a power play with 4:15 remaining and Daniel Briere won it in overtime. The Flyers were 6-for-9 on the power play that night, Oct. 6, 2009.