2016-04-15 / State/National Sports

Capitals shut down Flyers 2-0

A goal by Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson gets past Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) with Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, left, nearby during the second period of game one of a first-round NHL playoff series Thursday in Washington. 
AP Photo by ALEX BRANDON A goal by Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson gets past Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) with Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, left, nearby during the second period of game one of a first-round NHL playoff series Thursday in Washington. AP Photo by ALEX BRANDON WASHINGTON (AP) — Going into the locker room at the first intermission, the Washington Capitals had no goals but all the momentum.

Three successful penalty kills kept the Philadelphia Flyers off the scoreboard, and the Capitals knew they’d get their chance.

When that happened, John Carlson scored on the power play and the Capitals locked down defensively to shut out the Flyers 2-0 Thursday night in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

In a special-teams showcase, Washington leaned on its trademark penalty killing and the goaltending of Braden Holtby to take the lead in the series.

Holtby stopped all 19 shots he faced for his third career shutout in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“He’s been great all year — he’s been standing on his head, winning us games and stealing us games,” said Jay Beagle, who scored the Capitals’ second goal. “With a bunch of (penalty kills), you have to rely on the goaltender quite a bit. He obviously stood on his head again tonight. Those PKs gave us momentum.”

The Capitals went 4 for 4 on the penalty kill and frustrated the Flyers, who got only eight shots on net after the first period and lost secondline center Sean Couturier to an upper-body injury midway through the second. Couturier appeared to injure his left arm or shoulder on a hit by Alex Ovechkin and didn’t return.

Couturier’s status for Game 2 in Washington on Saturday is uncertain. The team said he’d be evaluated Friday.

“All I know is we had to go without him for the rest of the game tonight,” Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol said. “I won’t go any further than that.”

Couturier’s absence could be crushing for the Flyers, especially after they missed several opportunities to score on the power play. The Capitals’ penalty kill, which ranked second in the NHL during the regular season, was up to the task early and often.

“If they score there, it’s a totally different game,” said center Nicklas Backstrom, who assisted on Carlson’s power-play goal. “We were staying aggressive and we didn’t allow them too much.”

Coach Barry Trotz said prior to the game that special teams “can give you momentum or they can take some momentum away from you,” and that came true. After his team killed off a fourth penalty in the second period, it got two power plays and started to take over.

Just 19 seconds after Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning went to the box for sending the puck over the glass, Carlson’s shot from the point deflected off penalty killer Chris Vandevelde and bounced in past Steve Mason at 16:21 of the second.

Mason was phenomenal in stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced, but what Backstrom called a “weird shot” from Carlson turned out to be the game-winner.

“When you get a good bounce like that, it’s nice,” Carlson said. “It’s a pick-meup to start us off.”

Carlson’s goal was an emotional boost, but the Capitals’ methodical defensive play was already well under way. They held the Flyers to a total of eight shots in the final two periods.

“They pressured,” Flyers defenseman Mark Streit said. “We’ve just got to move the puck and keep it simple as much as possible, get pucks to the net and have traffic there. It’s easier said than done. They did a pretty good job. We’ve just got do better.”

The Capitals can be better, too, now that they’ve shaken out whatever rust was left from several months of not playing meaningful games.

For all the talk about flipping a switch for the playoffs, the Presidents’ Trophy winners looked playoff ready right away, which could be a bad sign for the Flyers and the rest of the Eastern Conference.

“We didn’t have to fake it tonight,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “We had good focus, good intensity. Really strong effort from a lot of guys and most of the team. I thought we knew exactly how we wanted to play, how we wanted the game to go and we had really good execution.”

Islanders 5, Panthers 4

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — John Tavares had a goal and two assists, including one that set up Kyle Okposo’s goahead goal early in the third period, and New York beat Florida Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series.

Thomas Greiss survived a shaky beginning and made 42 saves for the Islanders in his first playoff start, and Brock Nelson, Frans Nielsen and Ryan Strome added goals for New York.

Home-ice advantage in the series now belongs to the Islanders, and they can take a 2-0 lead back to Barclays Center if they prevail when the series resumes in a quick turnaround Friday night.

Reilly Smith had two goals, Jussi Jokinen had a goal and two assists and Teddy Purcell also scored for the Panthers. Roberto Luongo made 21 saves.

Sharks 4, Kings 3

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Pavelski broke a tie with his second goal early in the third period, and San Jose opened its playoff return with a victory over Los Angeles.

Brent Burns and Tomas Hertl scored for the Sharks in their first postseason game since losing four straight to the Kings in 2014, completing a seven-game flop in the first round. Los Angeles rode the momentum to its second Stanley Cup title, but both California rivals missed the playoffs last year.

San Jose’s Martin Jones made 19 saves against his former Los Angeles teammates in his first career playoff start.

Trevor Lewis scored a short-handed goal and Jonathan Quick stopped 19 shots for the Kings.

Game 2 is Saturday night at Staples Center.

Jake Muzzin and Jeff Carter also scored, but Los Angeles struggled to keep up for long stretches of the two-time champs’ return to the postseason.

Stars 4, Wild 0

DALLAS (AP) — Kari Lehtonen made 22 saves for his second career playoff shutout, Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists and Dallas beat Minnesota in Game 1 of the Western Conference series.

Jason Spezza returned to the postseason with a nifty goal and added an assist.

Spezza was skating along the right side and initially faked a slap shot with just over 8 minutes left in the second period. After skating a few more feet to near the center of the faceoff circle, he took a wrist shot and sent the puck in the upper right corner to make it 2-0.

Patrick Eaves and Radek Faksa also scored.

Game 2 is Saturday night in Dallas.

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