After losing two previous games by blowing third-period leads, the Washington Capitals put together a solid final 20 minutes Friday night to get a much-needed win.
Troy Brouwer and Wojtek Wolski scored third-period goals as the Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 at Verizon Center in a battle of two struggling teams.
Washington led 2-1 after two periods at the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday and Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, only to see both games end up as 3-2 losses. This time, it was the Capitals who took command.
"It was really big," said center Nicklas Backstrom, whose breakaway goal late in the second period tied the game 1-1. "We had a tough road trip. We played well against Ottawa and we had a lead there in the third period -- same thing in Toronto. So, we really needed this one. Especially in the position that we are in, we need the points."
Brouwer put the Capitals ahead to stay at 3:57 of the final period when he set up in the lower left circle, took Mike Green's diagonal pass from the right point and snapped a shot high to the short side that went over Ilya Bryzgalov's right shoulder. It was Brouwer's third of the season and his first in eight career games against the Flyers.
Wolski gave Washington a two-goal lead at 6:44 when he picked the pocket of defenseman Luke Schenn in the neutral zone after a Philadelphia faceoff win, raced in alone and dribbled a backhander past Bryzgalov for his second of the season.
"We created a lot of turnovers and got a lot of shots – quality chances rather than just puck possession," Green said.
Wolski's goal proved to be the game-winner when Philadelphia's Braydon Schenn banged a loose puck past Braden Holtby at 10:30 after Matt Read's shot from the left circle hit the crossbar.
"Obviously frustrating for a little bit now -- we just weren't good enough, especially in the third period where it was 1-1," Schenn said. "You have to learn how to win those hockey games and to give up two [goals], it's obviously not what we were looking for. We did get a late one, but I still don't think we were good as a team tonight."
Holtby finished with 29 saves. Bryzgalov stopped 23 shots.
The victory was the second of the season for the Capitals (2-5-1). The Flyers lost their third in a row and fell to 2-6-0. They have scored 16 goals in their first eight games.
"It's turnovers, but we need to compete better as well," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said.
Alex Ovechkin had seven shots on goal but didn't score -- Bryzgalov made a nice save on him early in the third period and a diving play by a Flyers defender cost him a chance at an empty-net goal in the final minute. Though Ovi didn't hit the scoresheet, coach Adam Oates was very pleased.
"I thought it was the best game he's played this year, quite honestly," Oates said. "He was involved in the whole game. I thought he had a lot of opportunities."
It took more than 31 minutes for either team to get on the scoreboard.
The Flyers grabbed a 1-0 lead at 11:32 of the second period when defenseman Bruno Gervais sneaked down from the right point and found a loose puck just outside the crease after Danny Briere's wraparound try slithered off his stick and across the goalmouth. Gervais popped it into the open left side for his first goal with the Flyers.
Philadelphia continued to carry the play -- the Flyers outshot the Capitals 14-6 in the middle period -- but Washington got even at 17:42, when a defensive breakdown allowed Backstrom to go in on a breakaway. Backstrom made a deke on Bryzgalov before lifting a backhander under the crossbar for his first of the season.
Before Brouwer's goal, Washington missed a golden chance to take the lead when it was unable to capitalize on a 5-on-3 advantage for the first 1:13 of the third period.
The Flyers played much of the game without two forwards -- Zach Rinaldo was ejected along with the Capitals' Matt Hendricks when both received game misconducts along with fighting majors at 18:14 of the first period. That fight came seconds after a high hit by Washington defenseman John Erskine leveled Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds, who did not return.
Flyers forward Mike Knuble, who spent the past three seasons with Washington, said the short bench had no real effect.
"You're involved in the game, you don't worry about that; you just play and things happen," he said. "Guys are used to playing with guys and without guys, and you just have to power your way through."