The Washington Capitals didn't miss Alex Ovechkin at all.
With Ovechkin sidelined by an upper-body injury, Joel Ward stepped up with his first career hat trick to lead the Capitals to a 7-0 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Friday night.
Nicklas Backstrom had two goals, Jason Chimera scored once and had three assists, and Braden Holtby made 30 saves for his first shutout of the season and the eighth of his career.
"I thought we were outstanding today," Holtby said. "Obviously, some goals went in, but I thought our whole game was great. I thought the Flyers played a better game than a 7-0 game, and this shows how well we played. I thought this was our best effort of the year."
It was the Capitals' largest margin of victory against the Flyers since entering the NHL in 1974 and matched the Flyers' largest shutout loss since 1994.
"We knew we had to make a few adjustments," Ward told the NHL Network when asked about his team's game plan without Ovechkin. "We just wanted to get the puck out of our zone as fast as we could."
Ward completed his hat trick by beating Ray Emery at 5:23 of the third period. Eight seconds later, a brawl broke out that included a fight between Emery and Holtby. The brawl resulted in eight fighting majors; Emery, who had replaced starter Steve Mason in the second period, received one of them to go with two minors, a misconduct and a game misconduct.
Four other players -- the Capitals' Steve Oleksy and Alexander Urbom and the Flyers' Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn -- were given fighting majors and game misconducts.
"They were obviously a very frustrated team," Capitals coach Adam Oates said.
Washington, which improved to 6-7-0, ended a five-game road trip with a 3-2-0 record while winning for the first time this season in a game in which Ovechkin didn't score.
The Flyers fell to 3-9-0 and have lost consecutive home games to the Anaheim Ducks and Capitals.
The Flyers also lost Steve Downie with a concussion -- general manager Paul Holmgren said the newly acquired forward was taken to a hospital for "further tests and observation" -- following a second-period fight. Lecavalier suffered a facial injury.
"It can't get a whole lot lower, can it?" Flyers coach Craig Berube said.
Ovechkin was injured in Washington's 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night. He is tied for second in the NHL with 10 goals and has 24 goals in 29 career games against the Flyers. The Capitals have said they hope Ovechkin will be able to play Saturday night against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.
With the Flyers struggling in their own zone, the Capitals didn't need Ovechkin.
The Flyers dominated play in the opening period, limiting Washington to one shot on goal for more than 17 minutes. But the Capitals capitalized on a misplay by Philadelphia's defense to score the only goal of the period. Nicklas Grossmann's backhand clearing attempt up the right boards was kept in at the right point by defenseman Nate Schmidt, who got the puck to Martin Erat. Backstrom drifted just inside the right circle and one-timed Erat's pass behind Mason at 17:28 for his third goal of the season.
"We handled the first five minutes," Oates said. "We gradually picked them apart."
The Capitals built off the momentum of the late goal and blew the game open by scoring five times in the second period.
Chimera's takeaway from Mark Streit near his own blue line triggered a 3-on-2 rush that led to Washington's second goal. Mason stopped Ward's blast from the slot, but the Flyers couldn't clear their zone and Ward beat Mason at 1:24 for his fifth of the season.
Chimera made it 3-0 at 2:44 when he outraced everyone on a breakaway after another offensive-zone turnover, got Mason to go down and lifted a quick shot over his pad for his fifth of the season. Backstrom ended Mason's night at 3:49 -- or so it appeared -- when his long snap shot from beyond the left circle went through traffic and into the net.
"We created turnovers and had a lot of good speed, we cycled well, all the things we talk about on a night-to-night basis," Oates said. "The power play got a couple. The penalty kill was good. [We did] a lot of good things."
Emery relieved Mason after the Capitals' third goal, but Washington kept coming. Ward scored again at 16:25, beating Emery high to the glove side, and Troy Brouwer was left alone in the slot to fire home the rebound of Mike Green's shot for a power-play goal at 18:20.
“I thought we played pretty good for the [first] 15 minutes, and once they scored the first goal we stopped playing,” Holmgren said. “I think we’re afraid to play the game right now, afraid to make plays, afraid to battle for pucks, afraid to skate after pucks; it’s tough to watch. I’m sure the players are very embarrassed, like we all are, and we have to be better than that.”
Mason returned in the third period after Emery was given a game misconduct to go with 29 total minutes in penalties.
Material from team and national media was used in this report