Alas, the local faithful went home disappointed as the Caps turned in perhaps their most dismal performance of the season in a 7-2 loss to the Flyers, their worst defeat in the District in more than four years.
With three days between games, all the local focus was on Ovechkin. Washington's four-game homestand still had two games remaining, Saturday against Philly and Monday against the Isles, and the house was packed as the Caps got set to face their fellow Metropolitan Division denizens.
Video: WSH Recap: Oshie has goal, assist in loss to Flyers
Meanwhile, the Flyers found themselves on the wrong side of a Thursday night drubbing from the New Jersey Devils in Philly. Despite outshooting the Devils 48-19, the Flyers lost 5-0 on home ice to lowly New Jersey - the last place team in the Metro. The Caps can relate; they took a 5-1 Saturday night spanking here from New Jersey less than a month ago, on Jan. 11.
Philly came to town with 65 points and the 11th best record in the NHL from a points percentage perspective, but if the season ended today, that wouldn't be good enough to make the playoffs. Six of the NHL's top 11 teams reside in the Metro, but a maximum of only five of them can make the playoffs. That made Philly a desperate team looking to rebound from a bad beat.
After Saturday's morning skate, Caps right wing T.J. Oshie was asked whether the Caps would need to match Philadelphia's intensity.
"Yeah, I think so," came the reply. "I think there are times when we play Philly and they're buzzing, and we've had some sleepy games against them. But whether that's just them playing well or us not being ready, they're tough opponents. It's always a tough game when you play the Flyers, and tonight's going to be no different.
"Just the fact that they're fighting to get into the playoffs makes it that much more important that we're ready to go at the drop of the puck."
As it turned out though, the Flyers were buzzing again and the Caps had another sleepy game against them. Washington was out of synch from the start. Passes weren't connecting, movement was slow, and pucks were repeatedly turned over. The Caps had a brutal night on the dot, winning just 17 of the game's 63 face-offs (27 percent), so they spent a lot of time chasing the puck and the game.
Video: Postgame | February 8
Each team scored a power-play goal in the first, but the Caps needed three good saves from Braden Holtby on Kevin Hayes to get to the second period all even at 1-1.
That's when it all came undone. Philly scored three times in 105 seconds to take command of the game, and this was clearly one of those nights where Washington would not be able to muster a response or a comeback. The Caps left Holtby out to dry, turning pucks over right in front of him, and Philly pounced repeatedly, scoring six straight goals to take a 7-1 lead in the third before the Caps managed a token late tally.
"A couple of other points of the season, if we had a game like this you could sweep it under the rug," says Caps defenseman John Carlson. "But I don't think we've had enough dominating efforts from our team like we're capable of or used to. We're crawling back, we're showing a lot of fight and resiliency, making some great plays and then putting together some great stretches of hockey. But I just don't think we're where we need to be in terms of a full effort.
"I don't think we sweep anything under the rug necessarily, but I think certainly we've been talking leading up to this game and meeting, and now we've just got to continue to find ways to keep ourselves accountable and figure it out. Definitely not panic, but I think we would like to see a better, more consistent game out of ourselves."
After taking Sunday off, the Caps will take a crack at that better, more consistent game on Monday night against the Islanders, and Ovechkin will take another run at 700 in the finale of the homestand.
Video: Reirden Postgame | February 8
Shooting Star - There were few highlights for the Caps on Saturday, but Oshie scored his 20th goal of the season on a Washington power play in the first period. Oshie has reached the 20-goal plateau five times in his NHL career, with four of those coming in his five seasons with the Capitals.
Oshie's career best is 33 goals, established with the Caps in 2016-17. He led the NHL with a 23.1 pct. shooting rate that season, and is at 20.2 pct. this season, third in the league. In 443 games with St. Louis at the start of his NHL career, Oshie managed a shooting rate of 11.8 pct. In 346 games with the Caps, he is at 17.5 pct.
Video: PHI@WSH: Vrana, Oshie team up for power-play goal
Starting Point - Rookie blueliner Martin Fehervary was probably Washington's best defenseman on Saturday night, a low bar on this night. Playing in just his fifth NHL game, the 20-year-old Slovakian skated 18:14 on the night, and he recorded his first NHL point with a secondary helper on Evgeny Kuznetsov's third-period goal.
Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears earned a 5-2 victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds on Saturday night at Giant Center.
After a scoreless first period, the Bears got on the board early in the second and never trailed, taking a 1-0 lead on Axel Jonsson-Fjallby's 11th goal of the season at 2:40, Garrett Pilon and Eddie Wittchow assisting. Philippe Maillet also notched his 11th of the season in the middle frame, scoring at 9:23 with help from Joe Snively and Christian Djoos to make it a 2-0 game.
The lead was trimmed to 2-1 heading into the third, but Djoos scored his fourth of the season on a Hershey power play at 3:58 of the final period, restoring the two-goal lead with help from Bobby Nardella and Maillet. At 12:08 of the third, Alex Alexeyev scored his third goal of the season to make it a 4-1 game, Djoos and Kody Clark assisting.
Springfield scored to make it 4-2, and then Maillet netted his second of the night on a Hershey power play at 16:34, accounting for the 5-2 final. Alexeyev and Pilon drew the assists on Maillet's second of the game.
Pheonix Copley made 22 saves in the Hershey nets to improve to 16-6-2 on the season.
The 30-15-2-3 Bears now sit atop the AHL's Atlantic Division, one point ahead of second-place Hartford. The Wolf Pack holds a game in hand on Hershey. The Bears are back in action on Sunday afternoon when they finish off a busy weekend with a quick trip to Lehigh Valley to face the Phantoms.
By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 22:34 in ice time … Kuznetsov led the Caps with four shots on net … Radko Gudas had six shot attempts to lead Washington … Tom Wilson and Garnet Hathaway had five hits each to pace the Caps … Hathaway led the Caps with three blocked shots.