While the Caps were putting a 6-1 drubbing on the Sens in the District, the Flyers were on the wrong end of a 5-4 overtime decision against the Hurricanes in Carolina, finishing a season-long six-game road trip with an underwhelming 1-4-1 record.
As the Caps and Flyers get set to tangle in Philly on Wednesday, Washington comes in virtually as fresh as it can be after playing the front end of a set of back-to-backs. The Capitals had to kill only one penalty in Tuesday's game, they played 5-on-5 hockey for 58 minutes and were able to roll four lines and three pairs for most of the evening. No Washington defenseman played as much as 22 minutes, and no Caps forward skated more than 17 and a half minutes in the win over Ottawa.
"I think that helps a little bit obviously in the back-to-back," says Caps winger T.J. Oshie, who scored twice on Tuesday. You know you don't want a night where you have to rely on Nick [Backstrom's] line too heavily, to where they get over the 20-minute mark and set them back for [Wednesday] night or the game after that. So it was nice to keep the shifts pretty balanced and, everyone should be as fresh as you can get for a back-to-back in Philly."
The Caps have five more games between now and their midseason oasis, the bye week/All-Star break. All five are against Metropolitan Division opponents, starting on Wednesday with the Flyers. A three-game homestand follows, comprised of two games against New Jersey sandwiched around a game against Carolina. After the homestand, the Caps face the Islanders in New York before taking a week away from the rigors of the NHL schedule.
They'll aim to get on the good foot on Wednesday in Philly. With Tuesday's win over the Sens, Washington is 6-1-1 on the front end of back-to-backs this season, and it is 5-1-1 on the back end. Much of the Caps' success this season in back-to-backs stems from its ability to set itself up for success on the first night.
"Yeah, it's huge," says Caps defenseman Radko Gudas. "You want to have as much power and as much juice in your body for these back-to-backs, so obviously this was one of the games that we could do it, and we did it. I think it's going to an advantage for us [Wednesday]."
When the Caps were last here on Nov. 13, they skated away with a 2-1 shootout win. The Caps got an early goal from Brendan Leipsic in that one, and they won it on Evgeny Kuznetsov's shootout goal.
Video: Reirden Pregame | January 8
"It was a real competitive game," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of Washington's pervious visit here this season. "It's not an easy building to come in and play in, and I thought we - for the most part - executed really well coming out of the [defensive] zone, and our breakouts were an area strength for us vs. a team that comes really hard in this building. I think that gave us a chance to be able to use a little bit more of our skill level in open ice. So again tonight, that'll be important to be able to break that puck out cleanly."
Five In Philly - Thirty-six years ago today, the Caps found themselves in Philadelphia for a date with the Flyers. Washington came to town with an abysmal 6-17-0 all-time record against the Flyers in Philly, and was still smarting from a 9-4 smacking from Philly at the Forum a few weeks earlier, on Dec. 15, 1983.
But this night would be different.
Caps center Bengt Gustafsson had a career night, lighting up the Flyers for five goals as the Caps romped to a 7-1 win here.
Gustafsson became the first player in franchise history to net five goals in a game. It was the 40th time in NHL history (at that time) that a player had scored five goals in a single game, and Gustafsson became the 32nd different player to achieve the feat.
Gustafsson accomplished the feat against the late Pelle Lindbergh, Gustafsson's one-time junior teammate.
"It doesn't matter," Gustafsson was quoted as saying in the Jan. 9 edition of The Washington Post. "The main thing is that we won. We lost the last game in here and played pretty bad. We had to come back and make up for it.
"It was one of those nights when everything goes in, it goes in and goes in. It's just nice. It's not the season. It's the start of a road trip and we wanted to get started right and put a few wins together."
Playing on a newly formed line with Dave Christian and Mike Gartner, Gustafsson scored his five goals with just five shots on goal. He became the second Swede to turn the trick; Willy Lindstrom of Winnipeg did it in Philadelphia against the Flyers in 1982. Christian was the common thread; he was playing on a line with Lindstrom the night he netted five goals in a game. Both players were members of the Winnipeg Jets at the time.
"This was easy," said the man known simply as "Gus," in the Jan. 9 edition of The Journal Messenger. "Just close your eyes and keep your stick on the ice. That's how it felt. I didn't have to do much. It was like five empty nets."
The goals lifted Gustafsson's season total to 22, matching his total from the previous season in Washington's 43rd game of the 1983-84 campaign.
The Capitals have played 3,552 regular season NHL games in their history in the league, and in only three of those games has any player scored five goals. Gustafsson was the first; he was followed by Washington's Peter Bondra on Feb. 5, 1994 and Detroit's Sergei Fedorov on Dec. 26, 1996.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | January 8
In The Nets - Braden Holtby gets the net for Washington on Wednesday in Philly. He is coming off a 25-save performance in Sunday's historic 5-4 win over the Sharks in which the Caps won despite yielding an empty-netter with a minute to go, a tally that put them two goals down. The Capitals rallied to force overtime, and Holtby helped his cause with two terrific saves and a secondary assist on Lars Eller's game-winner in the extra session.
Sunday's victory was the 275th of his NHL career, tying Holtby with Marty Turco for 45th place on the league's all-time wins ledger.
Lifetime against the Flyers, Holtby is 13-4-8 with a pair of shutouts, a 2.39 GAA and a .920 save pct. in 26 contests.
Carter Hart will oppose Holtby from the opposite end of the ice for the Flyers. He won his first NHL start last season at the age of 20 and earned his first shutout in the league this season at 21, becoming the youngest goalie in franchise history to achieve each of those feats. This season, he is 13-10-3 with a 2.61 GAA and a .905 save pct.
Hart has an extremely skewed home/road split in this, his sophomore season in the NHL. On home ice this season, Hart is 11-1-2 with a stingy 1.49 GAA and a .947 save pct. in 14 games. In 15 road appearances, he is 2-9-1 with a 4.01 GAA and an .850 save pct.
Lifetime against the Caps, Hart is 0-1-1 with a 2.43 GAA and a .925 save pct. in two appearances.
All Lined Up - Here is a look at how we expect the Capitals and the Flyers to look on Wednesday night in Philly when they meet for the second of four times this season:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 77-Oshie
62-Hagelin, 20-Eller, 14-Panik
28-Leipsic, 26-Dowd, 21-Hathaway
29-Djoos (upper body)
28-Giroux, 14-Couturier, 11-Konecny
25-van Riemsdyk, 13-Hayes, 62-Aube-Kubel
18-Pitlick, 12-Raffl, 93-Voracek
21-Laughton, 46-Vorobyev, 49-Farabee
19-Patrick (migraine disorder)
23-Lindblom (Ewing's sarcoma)