The Washington Capitals arrived in Philadelphia flying high -- no pun intended.
Entering Wednesday's game, the Capitals had strung together two consecutive dominating performances: a four-goal third-period outburst that doused the New Jersey Devils Saturday and an emotionally charged victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday at Verizon Center.
Unfortunately for Washington, a day makes quite the difference.
The Capitals could not carry the momentum that has eluded them for most of the season into their matchup with the Flyers, who pounced on them early and often en route to a 4-1 victory.
It took Philadelphia all of 23 seconds to take the lead for good when Claude Giroux found himself unguarded in the slot to slip a pass from Scott Hartnell past Braden Holtby. Wayne Simmonds scored on a similar play in tight less than four minutes later to put the Capitals in an early 2-0 hole.
After winning five of seven and seemingly reaching a breakthrough, Washington relapsed.
The same problems that plagued the Capitals as they trudged towards a 2-8-1 start returned Wednesday, much to their chagrin:
- A lack of sustained offensive pressure. They took only three shots during an abysmal second period and only five between the start of the second period and the midway point of the third.
- Porous defense. The Flyers entered the offensive zone and camped out in front of the crease with little to no resistance
- Suspect goaltending. Holtby allowed four goals on 18 shots before being pulled. That is not to say that Holtby was to blame for all of them (most certainly the fourth one, though, which he admitted to), but he could not make the timely saves that Washington needed.
"We didn’t play good at all," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "Just got outworked. It definitely seemed like we played the night before; mentally and physically [we] just weren’t going. It looked like... we weren’t executing on the plays that we have been in the past few games and that wasn’t a good effort by us.”
Wednesday's loss continued a pattern that has recently developed: For every glimmer of hope, there is at least one game that completely stalls all of Washington's forward progress.
After three straight victories over the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this month, the Capitals lost two in regulation to the New York Rangers and Devils.
Now, after two signature victories earlier this week, they find themselves back at square one, having to scrounge up some momentum.
"Hopefully, that's not the way it continues to go, but that does seem to be the trend," Alzner said. "We're still not where we want to be completely, but we're getting back there. It's not a good loss, but hopefully it doesn't set us back more than one game."
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