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The Morning After: Flyers squeak out close one

B&P’s Take: Wow. I'm absolutely beat tired tonight, so here are some quotes from today that I think sum up the game quite nicely. But seriously, one of the most entertaining regular season games I can remember.

"Niitty won us that game. They could have had four or five or six goals in the first period. Niitty stood tall and gave us the momentum." -- Jeff Carter

"I scouted the [Capitals versus] Blues game on Thursday and all they were talking about was this game on Saturday. We ended their season last year and there was a lot of motivation for them. They felt like we stole something from them and they wanted to make amends. We knew Washington was going to be a good team and we knew they were a team in the East that we'd have to contend with and these were two points we had to have today." -- John Stevens

"I expected them to have a lot of shots in the first, just maybe not 25. ... I think it was good for me after the Montreal game to get a lot of saves early." -- Antero Niittymaki

"It felt good to reward [Niittymaki] with a couple goals." -- Joffrey Lupul

"When a goalie plays that well, it gives you a chance to regroup.We weren't very good in the first period, but we got a little better in the second and a lot better in the third." -- John Stevens

"The third period we just kind of took over. I think the third goal Carter scored just killed them." -- Antero Niittymaki

"What goes around comes around -- and it will." -- Bruce Boudreau on the Flyers having scorers on the ice at the end of the game.

Note to the coach: it's the NHL. You wanna avoid embarrasment? Don't let 'em score 7.’s first period was, perhaps, the best period of Caps hockey this season (not sure I agree), but the team "just had nothing to show for it." Twenty-five SOG in the first, tying a club record for most shots in a period. Even Milan Jurcina was bombing shots from the point. And Antero Niittymaki stopped all of them.

I knew then that the game was over. -- The Red Skate, a Caps blog
Riley Cote deserves credit for fighting Donald Brashear twice, but man is he no match for the big man. Ugly. Asham deserves credit for wanting to go with Brash too, but after they dropped the gloves and were prepping to start, the refs stepped in. I've never seen that before. Bizarre, and ridiculous. It's times like that I miss the old NHL.

B&P’s Three Stars:

1. Antero Niittymaki: 47 saves. 25 in the first period. Best game as a Flyer?

2. Jeff Carter: Yeah, I know what you're thinking... Hartnell got the hat trick and Carter only potted two. But Carter's were at a more important point in the game, and Jeff also slammed Ovechkin to the ice in the corner.

3. Scott Hartnell: Second hat trick in five games. So now we know why Penguins fans hate him so much.

Honorable Mention. Joffrey Lupul: As a member of that line and the scorer of the first Flyer goal (a beauty, I might add), he deserves some recognition.

Questions With Answers: I asked five questions in the gameday post. Here they are, reprinted, with their answers. All credit for this idea goes to Hockey Wilderness.

1. Can the Flyers leave the nasty Montreal loss in the past? What's a Montreal?

2. Does John Stevens split up the pairing of Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn, since it failed so miserably on Thursday night and hasn’t performed well at any time this season when it’s been used? It started the game, but as Bill Meltzer wrote in his postgame:

Stevens frequently sent out Braydon Coburn with Kimmo Timonen as the game moved along. Timonen moved from the left side (where he plays when paired with Ossi Vaananen) over to the right. Stevens indicated that he did it because the pairing had so much success against Ovechkin's line in the playoffs last year.

3. How will Brent Johnson, with terrible career numbers against the Flyers, perform in goal for Washington? Johnson was horrible, and at the start of the third period he was replaced by Jose Theodore.

4. Will all of this unexpected extra work take a toll on Antero Niittymaki? Apparently not. This might be a more suitable question tomorrow, though.

5. How much will the absence of Alexander Semin hurt the Caps? It didn't seem to hurt them much as I doubt Semin would've been able to beat the Great Wall of Finland either.

6. Can they contain AO and Nicklas Backstrom like they did to Crosby and Malkin a week ago? Contain? Not so much. But Niittymaki did have AO's number. He had 12 shots, and Nitty made a couple huge saves, including a beautiful glove hand stop in the first. Ovechkin seemed to look to the skies for an answer after every failed shot attempt.

Despite the gigantic win, the Flyers didn't play all that solid of a game. Sure, Hartnell-Carter-Lupul dominated, but the first period was really unacceptable and the team hung Niittymaki out to dry. He can't play that way every game, and while the third period was really strong (maybe the best period all year), the Flyers need to get better at the full 60 minute efforts. My favorite quote of them all, when Stevens was asked if he's coaching the best team in the league right now:

"I think we've got a lot of work to do to make that claim to be honest with you. There are teams that had a lot better starts than we did, but we certainly like the direction of our team... We have the potential to be one of the best teams in the league, but we have a lot of work to do to be able to stake that claim."

A blowout win against a very good opponent and there's still not complete satisfaction... the sign of a focused hockey team.

But of course we're not complaining with a 7-1 win.

Devils tomorrow afternoon. Go Flyers.