As far as preseason games go, Friday's exhibition finale between the Caps and the Philadelphia Flyers was a feisty and lively affair, and one that should suffice as a last tune-up for Washington ahead of its season opener on Wednesday against the New York Rangers. After letting a 2-0 second-period lead slip away, the Caps rallied in the third and skated away with a 5-3 victory.
For the second time in as many preseason games, Anthony Mantha supplied the game-winning goal for the Caps. Early in the third period, Mantha took a sublime feed from Conor Sheary on a 2-on-1 rush, scoring from his off wing to snap a 3-3 tie and put Washington back on top.
Video: PHI@WSH: Mantha deposits Sheary's set-up for goal
"The game had different moments to it," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette. "The first period, I thought we were real good. In the second period after we scored the goal early, I thought that we really went sleepy a little bit and lost the lead. And in the third period, I thought we came out ready to play again, so there was some good and bad in there."
Washington got off to a strong start in Friday's preseason finale against the Flyers, holding Philadelphia without a shot on goal for a span of 11 minutes and 5 seconds in the opening frame. But just before the midpoint of the first, Caps captain Alex Ovechkin left the game after making a hit on Philly forward Travis Konecny in the offensive zone. Ovechkin did not return, retiring for the night after just three shifts totaling 2:19.
"Anytime a player leave, you're concerned," says Laviolette. "We're going to re-evaluate him [Saturday] and assess him for practice the next day, so that's where it's at right now."
Less than two minutes after Ovechkin's departure, Washington hopped out to a 1-0 advantage. After Philly netminder Martin Jones stopped Nick Jensen's right point drive, Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle collected the puck, but promptly lost the handle right in front of his net. Lars Eller was there for the Caps, and he brushed it home at 11:11 of the first for a 1-0 Caps lead.
Video: PHI@WSH: Eller sweeps home opening goal from in close
"I just tried to get in front of the net as soon as I saw [Jensen] was going to shoot," recounts Eller. "And then it's just a fight for the rebound, and I tried to get on the inside, and that's what I did."
The Caps killed off a pair of Philly power plays in the first, and they doubled their lead early in the second.
Washington lost an offensive zone draw, but Evgeny Kuznetsov raced behind the Philly net to retrieve an errant pass, skating the puck around the perimeter and feeding Martin Fehervary at center point. Fehervary pushed it to partner John Carlson over on the left dot, and Carlson rifled a high wrist shot past Jones at 4:54 of the second.
The Caps lost their grip on the lead a few minutes later. Philly managed some sustained pressure in the Washington end, winning four face-offs in a span of 61 seconds, resulting in half a dozen shots on Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov. The sixth of those shots - a wrist shot from Claude Giroux - found its way past Samsonov, cutting the lead in half.
Seventy-six seconds later, a Carlson turnover at the Philly lead morphed into a 2-on-1 rush in the opposite direction, and Flyers winger Cam Atkinson called his own number putting a shot to the far corner from the left circle to make it a 2-1 game at 10:41.
The Flyers held Washington without a shot on goal from the time of Carlson's tally until more than 11 and a half minutes later.
Tempers began to flare late in the second when Garnet Hathaway and Garrett Wilson were sent off for matching roughing minors. While the two sides were playing 4-on-4 hockey, the Flyers took their first lead of the game.
Kuznetsov turned it over at his own line, and Atkinson grabbed the puck and fired a clapper from the high slot. The puck ramped up Dmitry Orlov's stick and went over Samsonov's shoulder and in. Atkinson's second unassisted strike in less than eight minutes gave Philly a 3-2 lead heading into the third.
Seconds after go-ahead goal, T.J. Oshie and Garrett Wilson dropped the mitts when the former objected to the latter's hit on Caps defenseman Michal Kempny.
The Caps got their first power play opportunity of the game early in the third, wasting little time tying the game again. Justin Schultz's center point drive missed the net on the right side, but Washington winger Tom Wilson got a membership bounce in the slot, and he put it behind Jones to make it a 3-3 game at 2:27.
Video: PHI@WSH: Wilson scores PPG in 3rd period
Ninety-five seconds later, Mantha gave Washington a lead it would not relinquish.
Jensen fought Nicolas Aube-Kubel soon after Mantha's lead goal, and Tom Wilson was later sent off for roughing Philly forward Joel Farabee after the Flyer's hard hit on Hendrix Lapierre along the half wall during a Caps power play. Washington executed the late kill to preserve the lead, and Nic Dowd bagged an empty-netter from the Caps' end of the ice in the final minute to account for the 5-3 final.