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Caps finish exhibition season on winning note, kids impress in final showing ahead of roster decision day

by Mike Vogel @vogscaps /

Wrap It Up - The Caps concluded their 2021 exhibition season on Friday night at Capital One Arena with a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Washington finished the preseason at 2-3-1, collecting victories in each of its last two games, the two games in which it dressed its most representative roster.

With a strong first 25 minutes on Friday, Washington took its first multi-goal lead of the preseason, a 2-0 lead early in the second period. But the Caps went cold all over the ice for a spell thereafter, and they trailed 3-2 heading into the third.

Tom Wilson tied it on a power play at 2:27 of the final frame and Anthony Mantha scored his second game-winner in as many contests less than two minutes later. The Caps executed a late penalty kill to preserve the one-goal lead, and Nic Dowd's late empty-netter sealed it.

Caps captain Alex Ovechkin hobbled off after three first-period shifts totaling 2:19; he suffered a lower body while putting a hit on Philly forward Travis Konecny. Saturday is a scheduled off day for the Capitals, so no further information on Ovechkin's status will be available until the team reconvenes for a 10 a.m. practice on Sunday.

Friday's affair against Philly was a feisty one, featuring a couple of episodes of fisticuffs and some scattered kerfuffles. When it was all said and done though, Friday's game provided the Caps with a good and proper primer for the 82 regular season games that lie ahead, starting with Wednesday's season opener against the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena.

"It always feels better to win than lose, and you've got to keep riding that feeling," says Caps center Lars Eller. "I think we did some good things that we can use and look at, and we did some bad some things we can improve on. Just overall, I liked that we were able to respond after a not so good second period, and we raised our level in the third. I think that when you're able to do that and shift gears and answer back, that I think that was probably the biggest takeaway today."

Exhibition games can be insufferable, they can be sleepy, and they can be messy. But the six preseason games the Caps played should be enough to accurately assess the talent on hand and to get the vets ready for the long grind ahead of them.

"A lot of emotions and fights, even though it's a preseason game," says Eller. "But that's a division rival. There are going to be some emotional games, too, during the year. These teams are going to be fighting for playoff spots with us, and it show already. Even last game against Boston [on Wednesday] didn't feel like a preseason game, it felt like the regular season."

Last Call - Heading into Friday's exhibition finale, the Caps' training camp roster stood at 27 players. That total included injured center Nicklas Backstrom (hip), who missed all of training camp and won't be ready for the season opener against the Rangers on Wednesday. Three of the Caps' youthful players on the roster bubble got a last chance to impress on Friday, and all of them did so.

Defenseman Martin Fehervary, center Hendrix Lapierre and winger Beck Malenstyn were all in the lineup for Washington on Friday.

Video: Postgame | Peter Laviolette

"I thought they were good," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette. "Lappy made plays. He is a smart, creative player and you could see it in the way he plays the game. And so I thought that that line [with Conor Sheary and Oshie] was good, it was effective for us.

"I thought that Marty - especially playing with John [Carlson] - in that situation, I thought he had a real strong game. He played really well."

"[Malenstyn] was really good. Fast, speed, physical. He played a strong game as well."

Fehervary was likely the most noticeable of the trio, logging 19:57 on the night, including 3:12 of shorthanded ice time. He also put five shots on net, laid a pair of hits, blocked a shot and set up Carlson's goal in the second period.

Lapierre skated 13:44 on the night, including 1:35 of power-play time. He put one shot on net and won four of 11 face-offs (36 percent). Lapierre's line drove play most of the night, spent little time in its own end, and finished with strong possession numbers. The 19-year-old pivot also took a holding minor in the first period and was a shade offside on an early third-period rush, negating a Daniel Sprong go-ahead goal. Not to worry kid; Mantha scored his game-winner a minute or so later, so the Caps still took and held the lead the rest of the way.

Malenstyn punched the clock for 14:56 - including 2:51 while the Caps were down a dude - laid a team-high five hits, blocked a shot and put two on net. Filling in for Carl Hagelin on the left side of a line with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway, he fit in well, playing to both his line's and his linemates' identity.

"That's good, you know?" says Laviolette of the Caps' weekend roster decisions. "We've got to sit down [Saturday], and we're going to need to get to a roster, and guys had good showings, which is a good thing for us. It's a good situation to be in, and now we've just got to make those decisions on where we're going to go."

The Caps must file their opening night roster with the NHL by 5 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

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