PHILADELPHIA – Alex Ovechkin was waiting for a breakout game like this one.
The Washington Capitals have roared to their best start in team history without much production from Ovechkin. He buried that slump against a Philadelphia Flyers team he torments like few others.
Ovechkin scored two goals and the Capitals used a three-goal third period to remain perfect and beat the Flyers 5-2 on Thursday night.
Ovechkin beat fellow Russian Ilya Bryzgalov for goals in the first and third periods to lift the Capitals to a 6-0 start for the first time in team history. Washington had never started better than 4-0. They are the only unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s always nice to score goals,” Ovechkin said. “I have a couple chances in the last couple of games but I didn’t score and finally it goes in. I’m kind of happy.”
Ovechkin, the two-time league MVP, was off to a slow start with only one goal in the first five games. Washington had six players with more points than Ovechkin and two others that matched him with three points. Playing in Philadelphia was the perfect tonic for a bust-out night. Ovechkin entered with 35 career points (20 goals, 15 assists) against the Flyers, the most points he’s scored against any Atlantic Division team.
In game that was seemingly about two of the NHL’s best goalies, one of the best goal scorers toyed with Bryzgalov.
“He’s not going to go through the season with just one goal,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s going to score some goals. I think he’s like any other hockey player. He’s more excited and he’s not as frustrated. He’s playing with confidence instead of lack of it, so when he’s scoring he’s making life easier for him.”
The Capitals stormed into Philadelphia and roughed-up Bryzgalov, scoring three goals in a 2:25 span in the third.
The game was billed as a high-profile matchup between Bryzgalov and Washington’s Tomas Vokoun. The goalies’ duel never materialized. Vokoun was nearly flawless after allowing Claude Giroux’s early goal in the first.
“It seemed like the shots were coming in and (Tomas) Vokoun saw them,” Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. “There weren’t many rebounds after that.”
Bryzgalov had his worst game in his brief stint with Philadelphia. The third period turned into a nightmare with the Caps sending home most of a sellout crowd well before the final horn.
Roman Hamrlik, Ovechkin and Joel Ward all bested Bryzgalov in less than three minutes to make this a blowout. The Caps were the beneficiaries of a few deflections that slipped past Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov and Vokoun were the two highest-profile goaltenders to change teams in the off-season. Bryzgalov signed a nine-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, and Vokoun signed a bargain one-year contract with Washington.
Two weeks into the season, Bryzgalov and Vokoun had lived up to the lofty expectations.
Vokoun was coming off a shutout of the Florida Panthers, his former team, on Tuesday night. Bryzgalov had the first shutout for a Flyers goalie since April 2010.
It seemed like the kind of game where one goal might win it.
Not even close.
Giroux, who has goals in five of six games, scored on a beautiful breakaway on a 4-on-4 for the quick 1-0 lead.
Mathieu Perreault tied it with 1:20 left in the first on a wrister that scooted past Bryzgalov. In a preview of the third-period goal cluster, Ovechkin made it 2-1 with 11.8 seconds left for the 2-1 lead.
Vokoun made it stand, turning away everything until Sean Couturier scored with 15 seconds left. He signed one-year deal worth $1.5 million to prove his worth as a top goalie for a Stanley Cup contender. More games like this, and a bigger deal and a deeper post-season run surely await.
Vokoun stopped 40 shots and Bryzgalov had 23 saves.
NOTES: Top Flyers prospect Brayden Schenn played after his promotion from the AHL. Schenn was acquired from Los Angeles in the Mike Richards deal. … The Flyers have outshot their opponent in five of their six games this season. … This is the fifth time in the last nine meetings against Washington that the Capitals have scored at least five goals in the game. The Flyers are 1-3-1 in those five games.