The Capitals came into the post-season with the league’s best power play, and it was with the man advantage that Washington inched that much closer to punching their ticket to the second round of the playoffs.
Though the 6-1 final score makes it appear as though the Capitals ran roughshod all over the Flyers, it was anyone’s game through 40 minutes. It took only 57 seconds after puck drop — which was preceded by a tribute to late Flyers owner Ed Snider — for Philadelphia to get on the board, but Washington equalized not long after on the power play. However, were it not for Alex Ovechkin slipping behind the Flyers defense and snapping home a wrist shot midway through the second, the two teams may have gone to the dressing room knotted at one apiece after two periods.
But even though Philadelphia was only one shot away from tying the contest, hope dwindled early in the third period when a crazy bounce led to an Evgeny Kuznetsov power play goal. Kuznetsov’s tally gave Washington a 3-1 lead, and it was all downhill for the Flyers from there.
Over the course of the third period, Philadelphia took four minor penalties and a major on a scary (but unintentional) hit from behind by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. That’s not including the three misconducts that were handed out with nearly eight minutes left in the game that saw Bellemare, Radko Gudas and Ryan White booted from the game. And with the Flyers down, Washington began to pad their lead.
It started with a John Carlson goal, continued when Ovechkin scored his second of the night and ended mercifully when Jay Beagle scored with less than two minutes remaining in the frame. All three tallies came on the power play, and the Capitals became the first team to score five goals with the extra man in a single playoff game since the Carolina Hurricanes lambasted the New Jersey Devils 6-0 on the strength of five power play goals during the 2006 post-season. If the Capitals go on to win this series, the third period of Game 3 will almost certainly be seen as Philadelphia’s undoing, especially given that Flyers coach Dave Hakstol should have prepared his team to play a much more disciplined game.
The hope of the Flyers entering the series was that their penalty kill could simply slow down the Capitals’ power play attack. Entering the post-season there was reason to think Philadelphia might be trending in the right direction to do just that, too. Over the final two months of the season, the Flyers had the eighth-ranked penalty kill in the league at an 84.5 percent. However, Washington connected on three of eight power play attempts in the first two games of the series, and it should have been clear then that Philadelphia’s best chance at getting past the Presidents’ Trophy winners was to play at 5-on-5. But the Flyers fell apart Monday night, and so too may have their chances at getting to the second round of the post-season for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign.
Philadelphia’s only hope now is to win one game and avoid the series sweep Wednesday night, but that’s may be much easier said than done. The Flyers’ offense hasn’t clicked at all, their lack of discipline has gotten them in trouble and they find themselves behind 3-0 in a series against the league-leading Capitals. If Philadelphia can’t stay out of the penalty box and can’t solve Washington netminder Braden Holtby, this series could be over before it even really gets started.