For the better part of two months, the Capitals ran roughshod over virtually every opponent coming into Verizon Center. Victories by multiple goals were the norm, frequently accompanied with a goose egg under the visitor's name on the scoreboard as well.
Video: Backstrom delivers game-winning goal in OT
But in the Caps' last three home games, things have tightened up considerably on both sides. A total of seven goals have been scored in those three games, with the Caps winning a trio of one-goal squeakers.
Nicklas Backstrom's power-play goal in overtime - his 20th goal of the season - lifted the Capitals to a 2-1 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night. The victory was Washington's 15th straight on Verizon Center ice, extending the Caps' franchise record. And for the second straight game, Washington's power play supplied the game-winner late in the contest.
Video: Coach Trotz after 2-1 victory over Flyers
"In overtime, we got a couple of saves," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "We transitioned off that and drew a penalty. Once again, the power play came through for us with the game-winning goal.
"We've just got to get more of a better start, some puck management and some speed and trust to our game. When we do that, I think we're fine. That's an area we can get a little bit better at."
Backstrom's overtime goal is the sixth of his NHL career, moving him ahead of Peter Bondra and Kelly Miller into third place on Washington's all-time list. Only Alex Ovechkin (19) and Mike Green (8) have netted more game-winners in the extra session.
Video: PHI@WSH: Backstrom snipes game-winning PPG in OT
Facing a Philadelphia team desperate for points as it tries to make a fourth-quarter surge to the final Eastern Conference playoff berth, the Caps weren't able to get much going offensively in the early stages of the contest.
The Flyers had a couple of early power-play chances, but the Caps limited them to just one shot on net with the extra man during those four minutes of the first frame.
Washington got its game into gear in the second when it started playing fast and working the Flyers in the Philadelphia end of the ice. But a pair of penalties against the Capitals in the back half of the middle stanza took the Caps out of that rhythm, and for the second consecutive game - and for just the fourth time all season - Washington headed into the third period deadlocked in a scoreless tie.
The Flyers were sending bodies to the net all night, forcing Braden Holtby to make some strong stops in the second period especially. But early in the third, the Flyers' persistence in that area paid dividends when they scored a goal off the rush in that fashion.
Video: PHI@WSH: Holtby denies Couturier on the doorstep
Matt Read put the puck right on Sean Couturier's tape at the top of the paint, and Couturier redirected it high to the far side, over Holtby's left shoulder to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead just 79 seconds into the final frame.
But before the Flyers could try to road-hockey their way to a 1-0 win, an old nemesis of theirs intervened. Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov took a pass from blueline partner Niskanen and gained the Philadelphia zone. Just after crossing the line, Orlov cranked a blast that beat Flyers' goaltender Steve Mason, squaring the score at 1-1.
Orlov's goal came just 81 seconds after Couturier staked Philly to its lead, and it was the fifth of the defenseman's 19 career goals to come at the Flyers' expense.
Video: PHI@WSH: Orlov sizzles a slap shot past Mason
For the third straight period, the Flyers had two power-play chances to just one for the Capitals, but Washington's shorthanded outfit was more than up to the task. Holtby stopped all seven shots he faced during the dozen minutes of the game in which the Flyers enjoyed the benefit of an extra skater.
The Caps snuffed out all six Philly power plays on the night, and shut down all 15 of the Flyers' extra-man chances in the four-game regular season series in '16-17.
Washington's own power play also had very little going on. The Caps struggled mightily with their zone entries while they were skating a man to the good, and they weren't able to create or generate much with the extra man on those occasions when they did gain the zone and get situated. The Capitals managed just one shot on net during the six minutes they spent on the power play in the game's first three periods.
The Flyers had a couple of strong early chances in overtime, but Holtby had the answer for both, stopping bids from Philly defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Michael Del Zotto.
Seconds after that second stop, officials whistled Del Zotto for holding Lars Eller, and Caps right wing T.J. Oshie nearly ended the game with a bomb of a shot on which Mason made a mask stop, his headgear flying to the ice.
Video: Caps players talk after a 2-1 OT win vs. Philly
"I saw the entire cage," says Oshie. "I think I shot it back - I might have been missing the net on the far side - and it hit him right in the mask. You don't get too many opportunities like that. I'm lucky Nick bailed me out there."
Just after the midpoint of the power play, Ovechkin and Kevin Shattenkirk combined to get the puck to Backstrom, and Oshie expertly screened Mason, giving the Caps center just enough room to slip a shot into the net on the short side, which he promptly did.
"Osh was in a great position in front with a good screen," says Backstrom. "I was just trying to shoot short side there."
Shooting short side there is exactly what Oshie had in mind, too.
"Right before [Backstrom] shot," says Oshie, "I tried to cover up the short side. To shoot far side there with a guy blocking is pretty difficult. Right as he shot, I tried to move out of the way.
"Nicky is a smart player; I think he knew what I was doing. He saw a hole there, and put it in."
The Flyers desperately needed two points, and had to settle for one. Philly played a strong road game, and Flyers coach Dave Hakstol was none too pleased with the call on Del Zotto that led to Washington's game-winner, either.
"I think it's two guys battling for possession," laments Hakstol. "I think you can make an argument in both directions on it. I'm not going to stand here and second-guess a whole lot. I don't like the call, but the call was made. And that's that."
That, indeed, is that.