Lars Eller tied with 39.8 seconds left in regulation, Conor Sheary scored the overtime winner and the shorthanded Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Saturday night to ensure they open the playoffs in home.
Failure to win in the settlement gave the East Division title to rival Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals locked the No. 2 seed in the East and the ice advantage in the first round, but lost star winger TJ Oshie to injury and got scared enough with Tom Wilson who was in pain.
“I don’t know how we did it, to be honest,” said Eller, who played a career-high 27:06. “I don’t remember missing so many guys and guys who crashed in the game. Really a lot of guys have shown a lot of character today and stepped up in different ways. “
Winning this game was quite an achievement considering Washington’s recent spate of injuries and drama surrounding key players. The Capitals couldn’t ice a full roster because they didn’t have the salary cap space, missed four of their best players and handed the net over to the oldest goaltender to start a game of the franchise history.
Oshie’s injury was just the last twist in a few nightmarish weeks. He was injured at the end of the second period when he tangled with Nicolas-Dawn Kubel of Philadelphia, did not put weight on his left foot while skating, limped in the tunnel and was not returned.
“It’s kind of like a ‘we’re going again,’ said Sheary, who scored with 59.4 seconds left in overtime. “That’s kind of how it went the last few games. … It’s never fun to see it this late in the year. “
The Capitals entered the game without captain and leading scorer Alex Ovechkin, top two centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, No. 1 defenseman John Carlson and goaltender Ilya Samsonov. Ovechkin, Backstrom and Carlson are both seen on a day-to-day basis with a lower body injury, while Kuznetsov and Samsonov were unavailable due to the NHL COVID-19 protocol.
“Everyone – everyone – has a lower body injury,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “We didn’t rest anyone. If we had had guys who were up to their needs to play, we would have pushed. The training would have been different. We have dressed all the players available to us. “
Playing on the shorthand didn’t favor 39-year-old Craig Anderson, who was making his first start since February 23. Anderson finished with 26 saves, allowing only Scott Laughton’s goal at 3:42 in the third.
Alex Lyon of Philadelphia made 35 saves, falling within seconds of his first shutout in the NHL.
“Simply super frustrating,” said Lyon. “No matter how good you play, you always give up a goal in the last 40 seconds, then you give up one in overtime and you lose the game. “
THE FEAR OF WILSON
As if Wilson wasn’t already talking about hockey after his actions in a scrum on Monday at the New York Rangers, he was in the spotlight again when he collided with Dawn-Kubel in the first period. . Wilson grabbed his right knee and put no weight on that leg as he was helped but came back early in the second.
It was the Capitals’ first regular or playoff game without Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov or Carlson since January 31, 2006.
Ovechkin has missed seven of the last eight games with a lower body injury and has played a total of 39 seconds in the past two weeks. His seven injury games and 11 overall are the most significant of any season in his 16-year NHL career.
KEMPNY INJURED IN HERSHEY
The Capitals’ injury problems extend to Hershey. Defenseman Michal Kempny, injured all season after surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, left a drug rehab game with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears because he collided with a member of the the ice team.
“I don’t think it’s too much, too bad,” said Hershey’s coach Spencer Carbery. “Fall for the weird and weird things this year. He actually (made) accidental contact with one of the ice scrapers, believe it or not, which I had never seen before. “
FROM PESTLE TO PESTLE
Garrett Pilon made his NHL debut with the Capitals, giving Zdeno Chara the opportunity to say he played with his father and son. Chara, now 44, played three seasons with Garrett’s dad, Rich Pilon, when he broke into the league with the New York Islanders.
Flyers: Host the New Jersey Devils on Monday in each team’s season finale.
Capitals: Wait for the Bruins’ result on Monday against the New York Islanders to see if their Tuesday game makes sense for Boston.