Skip to Main Content

Capitals turning on power against Flyers

Success on man-advantage big reason Washington has 2-0 series lead on Philadelphia

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Notice to the Philadelphia Flyers: Stay out of the penalty box.

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals took a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference First Round series in large part because of their special teams.

Game 3 is in Philadelphia on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC, CSN-PH).

Though the Washington power play has consistently been in the top five in the NHL for the past few seasons, and Alex Ovechkin has scored more power-play goals than anyone (195) since entering the League in 2005, things were starting to get stale. The Capitals were 0-for-12 with the man-advantage over their final five regular-season games, and they were tied for 17th in the NHL after March 1 at 16.7 percent (9-for-54).

But Washington made some tweaks before Game 1, and it has paid dividends in the form of three goals on eight chances in the first two games. One of the changes was giving defenseman John Carlson more looks from the point and getting more traffic down low in front of the net.

Video: PHI@WSH, GM2: Carlson beats Mason from the point

Carlson has two power-plays goals in the series, each scored in nearly identical fashion. In Washington's 4-1 win in Game 2, Carlson used traffic in front of Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason created by T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson. In Game 1, which the Capitals won 2-0, Carlson's shot from straight on deflected off Flyers forward Chris VandeVelde and into the net.

Carlson scored eight power-play goals during the regular season.

"We all know what Ovi can bring from his spot (in the left faceoff circle), but I think [Carlson] has a really underrated shot," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "He's proven that a couple times now, so it's great. We've still got to come up with new things too."

When Carlson is capitalizing on his chances, it opens up more space for Ovechkin. Defenders don't know who to focus on, allowing one of them to get an open shot. And that's all part of the plan.

A wide-open Ovechkin scored a power-play goal in the second period Saturday. Backstrom fished the puck off the boards and passed through Oshie's legs to Ovechkin in the left circle for a slap shot and a 3-1 Washington lead.

Video: PHI@WSH, Gm2: Ovechkin rips a one-timer by Mason

The Capitals penalty kill has come up big as well. In Game 2, they killed off four penalties, including a Philadelphia 5-on-3 chance in the first period and a 4-on-3 in the second. Washington has not allowed a Flyers power-play goal in seven attempts.

"Usually, you don't see as many penalties in the playoffs," Washington goalie Braden Holtby said. "Kind of rough, chippy games you're going to see it. We obviously want to keep our discipline a little better, but the PK's there. We don't get rattled if they call something against us. We're ready to perform."

And Holtby has been a large part of the success on the penalty kill. He made 41 saves in Game 1 and has stopped 60 of 61 shots through two games.

"He finds a way to get his body in front of pucks," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "What's really important to a defenseman is a goalie that battles hard to fight through traffic to see them, and he does that really well because we're always trying to block shots and sometimes, they get through and he still finds a way."

View More