Written By Isabelle Khurshudyan at Washington Post.com
For three years running, the Washington Capitals’ power play had the designation of being the league’s best, always at the top of the statistical rankings at the end of the regular season. A franchise-best season was the one to oddly end that streak, as Washington’s power play finished fifth this year.
The unheralded penalty kill was ultimately the stronger special teams unit, second in the league with an 85.2 kill percentage in the regular season. That showed on Thursday in a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the first-round series. The Capitals got a goal from the power play in the second period to take a lead in the game, but if not for a stout penalty kill, Washington would’ve been trailing after the first period.
John Carlson was called for hooking less than four minutes into the game, and then Brooks Orpik was sent to the penalty box twice, making Washington shorthanded three times in the first period. But in four chances, the Flyers’ power play managed just seven shots on goal.
“What a huge moment in the game that is,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If they pop one or two there, that game could look a lot different. Good job by the killers.”
Earlier in the week, goaltender Braden Holtby had been complimentary of Philadelphia’s power play, wary of how Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds are able to generate scoring chances directly in front of the net with shots and screens. As Washington kept taking penalties that could’ve been costly, the Flyers never made them pay, in part because the penalty kill was often able to clear the puck out of the zone before Philadelphia could get a quality look.
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