May 8 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Capital One Arena
Time: 7 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 99.1 FM
Philadelphia Flyers 24-23-7
Washington Capitals 34-15-5
The Caps and Flyers finish up a weekend set of back-to-back games as well as the eight-game regular season series between the two teams on Saturday night in the District. The game is the penultimate contest of the regular season for both clubs, and the middle match of a three-game homestand for the Capitals, who will conclude the campaign on Tuesday night when they host the Boston Bruins.
Philadelphia took the front half of the set on Friday night, grabbing an early lead and maintaining it for the rest of the night in a 4-2 victory.
Following a pair of eventful and emotional games against the Rangers in New York earlier in the week and after dealing with an array of off-ice drama and woes, the Caps took a richly deserved day off on Thursday. They were slow out of the gates in Friday's game against the Flyers, falling down 1-0 in the second minute of the game. Washington awakened midway through the second, but by that time the Flyers had forged a 3-1 advantage.
The Caps pulled to within a goal on T.J. Oshie's tip-in tally with 69 seconds left in the second period, but they weren't able to muster the equalizer in the third period, despite some excellent chances.
"They did a good job of turning pucks over," says Oshie of the Flyers. "You probably tell that the pucks were bouncing all over the place and the ice was a little tough, but especially early, they were turning a lot of pucks over and coming back at it. They were getting pucks in, and we just kept making kind of the same mistakes over and over, either being soft on pucks or not executing our plays up the ice. And that's what they were good at.
"I thought there were moments there that we started taking back over the game and started looking like ourselves, but it we didn't capitalize on a couple of chances and we dug ourselves too big of a hole to get out of.
Washington will finish up its 10th set of back-to-backs on Saturday night against the Flyers. The Caps are 7-2-0 in the second half of back-to-backs this season, and they are 3-0-0 when falling in the opener. The Caps have yet to lose both ends of a back-to-back set of games this season.
"Those aren't the types of games that we want to have at this point in the year," says Oshie of Friday night's game. "It should be the exact opposite of our start. So, we'll have to learn from that and talk about it and watch video and change the way we started the game [Saturday] night."
Washington still controls its own destiny as it vies for a sixth straight divisional title. Regardless of what any of the other East Division hopefuls do over the remainder of the regular season, the Capitals can clinch the top spot by winning each of their two remaining games in regulation.
"These are big points for us that we let get by here, so there can't be any excuses," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette of Friday night's loss. "You can give the old adage or whatever you want, but at the end of the day, we needed to be better.
"I just thought we were just on our heels too much. [The Flyers] had some good pace to their first period, and we were reacting to them. We were turning pucks over because we weren't on our toes; we weren't sharp."
Given what was at stake for Washington in Friday's game, the outcome was disappointing.
"Obviously, there's things at stake," says Laviolette. "We know that, the players know that, I know that. And so, this one didn't go our way. There are things that we can do to be better, I am sure of that, and we'll suit it up [Saturday]. We'll get in front of these guys [Saturday]. We'll be in in the morning, and we'll talk about things then."
Earlier in the week, the Flyers played spoiler by putting a 7-3 hurting on the Penguins in Philadelphia in the front end of a pair of contests between the NHL's two Pennsylvania teams. With Friday night's victory over the Capitals, the Flyers proved to be equal opportunity spoilers and they also halted a run of five straight wins by Washington over Philly this season.
For the first time in franchise history, the Caps won four regular season games in the City of Brotherly Love this season. On Saturday night, Washington will be seeking a split of the four games between the two teams in the District this season, as the Flyers have taken two of the first three here.