The Philadelphia Flyers, donning their Reverse Retro uniforms, hosted the Washington Capitals in a Saturday night tilt at Wells Fargo Center. Despite a hard charge at the end, they lost to the Capitals 5-4 in front of the home crowd in South Philadelphia.
Both teams started the game in a very even manner, each getting some time in the offensive zone and generating a couple scoring chances, but Washington would strike first. A Jakub Vrána wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle could not be corralled by goaltender Brian Elliott.
As Elliott tried to reach for the puck, Daniel Sprong jumped in and poked the puck over the top of Elliott. It trickled down his back and landed just over the goal line to make it 1-0 just 4:40 into the game on an unfortunate play for Philadelphia.
The Flyers would try to bounce back, but with 6:39 left in the period Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway pounced on a turnover in their zone. He passed it over to Nick Jensen, and the defenseman fired a shot from the right point that Elliott initially stopped. Carl Hagelin battled through a check and stuffed home the rebound through the legs of the Flyers netminder to make it 2-0 Washington.
This was the second goal in the game that Elliott couldn’t handle the original shot and the Capitals capitalized on the chance to score.
The Flyers would not allow another goal for the rest of the period and did get a few more shots on net late in the period, but Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov stood tall to keep Washington on top by two heading into the first intermission.
Philadelphia opened the second period with some good time in the Capitals’ offensive zone, and James van Riemsdyk made it worth the Flyers’ while just 2:36 into the middle stanza. He sniped one past Samsonov from the slot to make it 2-1 on his 12th goal of the season. Sprong took the puck off of a shot rebound and gave it right away to van Riemsdyk, who wasted no time in shooting the puck into the net.
But as the trend has been this season, Philadelphia allowed a goal immediately after scoring. Nick Jensen was again involved offensively. Jensen, who also scored last week against the Flyers, won a race to the puck and shot it top shelf over the blocker of Elliott to make it 3-1 and restored Washington’s 2-goal cushion.
That would be the end of Elliott’s night as Carter Hart would replace him in goal. The dueling tallies were separated by a 29 second margin. It was the 12th time this season Philadelphia has allowed a goal within two minutes of scoring their own.
They would not go away quietly on this night however. Nolan Patrick finally ended his long drought and gave the Flyers some much needed life with a big goal that came 2:42 after Jensen’s goal. It was Patrick’s third goal of the season and first in 18 games, dating back to January 26th at New Jersey. Jake Voráček slid the puck across to Patrick after a great keep-in by Travis Sanheim. Patrick slapped it under the left pad of the sliding Samsonov to pull Philadelphia back within one.
Later on, the Capitals would force the Flyers to take a penalty while on the power play, and they made them pay on their own man advantage thanks to the always lethal Alex Ovechkin. He absolutely rocketed a shot through traffic past the low blocker side of Hart off of a nice setup pass from Nicklas Bäckström. This Washington up by two again, this time at 4-2 with 6:50 to play in the frame.
Philadelphia could not respond before the second intermission and left the ice down two goals with a showering of boos from the crowd at Wells Fargo Center.
Despite the feelings of the home spectators, the Flyers would allow another early-period goal. Nic Dowd deflected a Hathaway shot through the body of Hart and it scooted past the goal line to make it 5-2 Capitals at the 4:25 mark of the third period. The game seemed all but out of reach at that point, but because they’re the Philadelphia Flyers, they finally decided they had other ideas.
At 13:07 of the third, Shayne Gostisbehere kept up his great play as of late and wristed home a long-range power play goal that deceived plenty of traffic plus the glove of Ilya Samsonov to cut the Capitals’ lead to 5-3. The momentum seemingly flipped like a switch after that. This was Gostisbehere’s fifth goal of the season and second in three games.
Claude Giroux would keep the momentum rolling, as the captain smacked home his 5th goal of the year on a one-time laser from a cross-ice Voráček feed to make it 5-4 with just 2:57 to go in the third period. The Flyers would swarm the net and keep digging at every opportunity to tie the game, but their final efforts were to no avail as the Capitals held them off and won the game.
- Nolan Patrick – Patrick netted his first goal in 18 games and hopefully that brings some much need confidence to the former second overall pick. Patrick has been playing better the last few games and was finally rewarded tonight, and hopefully he can keep the momentum going and contribute more.
- Travis Sanheim – Sanheim recorded his first points in six games with two assists on goals from Nolan Patrick and Claude Giroux, and overall was arguably the Flyers’ best defenseman tonight. Sanheim also saw plenty of time on the power play tonight as well, which if you read my midseason report on him earlier this week, I think that’s a really positive thing that the Flyers need to continue with.
- Shayne Gostisbehere – Gostisbehere, whose name has popped up in recent trade rumors, is now riding a three-game point streak after his goal tonight. He now has points in four of his last five games, and also played a solid defensive game. The Ghost Bear is hot right now and that’s something to keep an eye on as the Flyers near the April 12th trade deadline and try to right the ship.
- Brian Elliott – Elliott was pulled after just over 23 minutes of game action after letting in three goals on 10 shots. The first goal he allowed was not particularly pretty, and the second goal could have been prevented if Elliott had better rebound control. The third was a perfect shot but maybe he would’ve had a better chance at stopping it if he didn’t go down as early. Elliott was not solely to blame for tonight’s game but he did not look very good.
- Adversity – The Flyers have now lost five of their last seven to kick off the month of March, and now sit four points, due to a tiebreaker, outside of a playoff spot behind the Boston Bruins. Tonight was also the third consecutive game in which Philadelphia trailed at the first intermission. They’ve never been exactly prone to slow starts, but even in games where they score early, the opponents respond just as fast and the Flyers seem to wilt almost immediately. They need to figure out their issues quickly before this season becomes lost and the postseason is out of reach.
The Flyers return to the ice on Monday night at Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers to kick off a four-game New York road trip between Manhattan and Uniondale. Hopefully they can regroup and return with some more pep in their step and get things trending in the right direction.