PHILADELPHIA — The first time Charlie Lindgren threw himself out of the crease for a pokecheck, he came away with the puck. But when the Washington Capitals’ goalie tried it again in the third round of a shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers, he came up empty, and it proved costly.
Flyers forward Bobby Brink maintained possession of the puck and slotted it into the empty net behind the sprawling Lindgren. The goal stood as the shootout winner at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday as the hosts topped the Capitals, 4-3.
Washington led twice, 2-1 in the second period and 3-2 in the third, but it wasn’t enough to stave off a late rally. Philadelphia scored the game-tying goal with 2:59 left to play — Owen Tippett’s point shot beat Lindgren (29 saves) through a screen — and the Capitals couldn’t find the winner in overtime despite having most of the puck possession.
The shootout loss still provided Washington (14-8-4) with a point in the standings, giving the Capitals points in their past four games, which helped assuage some of the sour taste from the game’s final result.
“Overall, we’ve got to be pretty happy with the way we played,” Lindgren said. “I’d say we deserved to win that hockey game. We played well enough to win. Just come up short in the shootout.”
Less than three hours before puck drop, the Capitals learned that center Evgeny Kuznetsov had fallen ill and wouldn’t be available. With no time to call up an additional player, forward Matthew Phillips entered the lineup as what Coach Spencer Carbery termed a “utility player,” leaving Washington with just three centers. Phillips played only 2:44, 2:01 of which came on the power play, and didn’t take a shift after the first period.
Center Nic Dowd was leaned on heavily without Kuznetsov and played a season-high 20:30, including 5:50 on the penalty kill. Dylan Strome and Connor McMichael shouldered the rest of the load, playing 20:56 and 20:02, respectively, with each scoring a goal.
Carbery was pleased with how his team played — until the final minutes of the third.
“I thought we had a lot of good things going for us throughout the game,” Carbery said. “Liked our start. Liked our second period. I thought [we] put ourselves in a good position heading into the third period. Power play scores a big goal. Even liked our third period for the first probably, however long. We give up the second goal. Not a great coverage scenario for us, but then we score relatively quickly right after that. Doesn’t rattle us. After that, I thought the game fell apart.”
The first period was tepid from both teams. Philadelphia (16-10-3) took the ice for the second period with some additional momentum, after killing a penalty Sean Couturier took late in the first, and it didn’t take long for the Flyers to pull into the lead. An extended shift in the defensive zone for Washington led to Brink putting the Flyers ahead at the 2:14 mark of the second period, chipping the puck over an outstretched Lindgren.
In response, Carbery sent McMichael’s line with Aliaksei Protas and Anthony Mantha over the boards. The trio have been a consistent force for Washington in recent weeks and needed just 46 seconds to produce an equalizer. All three players touched the puck on the goal: Mantha brought the puck into the offensive zone, Protas fed it to McMichael at the net front, and McMichael made a quick turning move to slot it past goalie Samuel Ersson (27 saves).
From that point on, much of the period was played on special teams. Washington took five penalties, including a hooking call on McMichael late in the period while already on the penalty kill, and killed all of the Flyers’ power-play opportunities. Philadelphia took just one penalty, but it was all the Capitals needed to produce a goal. Winger Tom Wilson scored the go-ahead goal at the 15:29 mark of the frame.
But Washington’s lead proved to be short-lived. Joel Farabee tied it just over five minutes into the third period, pulling the puck out of a battle behind the net and wrapping it around with a power move. The Capitals quickly struck back, with an opportunistic finish by Strome after Protas’s stick broke while taking a shot from the slot. The puck fell directly to Strome for his team-leading 12th goal of the season.
Again, though, the lead didn’t last long. After the Flyers tied the game late in the third period, they pushed for a winner but couldn’t solve Lindgren in regulation — or in overtime. In the shootout, both Couturier and T.J. Oshie scored in the first round, but Brink was the only scorer the rest of the way; Mantha lost the puck on his attempt in the third round, which ended the game.
There’s undeniably frustration for Washington in having had the game in hand and letting it slip away, but the narrow loss in a shootout didn’t do much to dent the Capitals’ confidence in their level of play going forward.
“Thought we played hard, played well. We had timely goals,” Strome said. “Just a couple miscues defensively and they tied it up. Thought we controlled play in overtime. I like our odds with that most nights. Obviously, sucks to lose in the shootout, but [we can] take some positives and move into the next game against Nashville.”
Note: Winger Sonny Milano was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury that he suffered “over the weekend,” Carbery said. The Capitals recalled forward Joe Snively from their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa., to fill Milano’s spot. Snively played just 6:31 in his first NHL game of the year.