The Philadelphia Flyers, who were coming off a huge road victory at Pittsburgh on Thursday, hosted the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers unfortunately could not keep their momentum going and fell to the Capitals 6-3 in front of the home crowd.
The game started off with a bevy of turnovers by the Flyers and the poor puck possession led to plenty of chances for the Capitals. They would wind up taking a penalty just 2:42 into the game as Justin Braun was sent to the box for tripping up Alex Ovechkin. Philadelphia would head to the penalty kill against the always dangerous Washington power play, who was 5-for-9 against the Flyers’ penalty kill heading into today’s game.
56 seconds into the power play, the Capitals would strike first. Ovechkin was in his office inside the left faceoff circle and one-timed a pass from John Carlson past goaltender Alex Lyon and into the net for an early 1-0 Washington lead. The puck grazed off the skate of Phil Myers on its way to the net, which caused it to barely sneak by Lyon’s right pad and put Philadelphia behind early.
The Capitals would continue to dominate the puck and registered the first six shots on goal of the game, and did not allow the Flyers to get a shot on Ilya Samsonov until the halfway mark of the frame thanks to Myers.
With 11:49 to play in the period, Sam Morin was given an unsportsmanlike conduct minor after Garnet Hathaway gave him a rough ride on the boards. Morin did not appreciate Hathaway’s hit on him and gave him a cross-check and tried to engage him into a fight, but the officials would have none of it and Morin would sit for two minutes.
The Flyers were lucky enough to fend off Washington’s second power play of the afternoon despite some good looks and keep the game at 1-0 as Morin exited the box without costing his team on the scoreboard.
Philadelphia would earn their first power play opportunity of the game with 8:25 remaining as Nick Jensen was called for holding on Jake Voracek, but the Flyers could not capitalize on the man advantage.
It looked like the Capitals would head into the first intermission up by one, but Ivan Provorov had other ideas. Claude Giroux did a great job protecting the puck and fed Provorov at the point, and the Flyers defenseman rifled home a one-timer that eluded some fly-by traffic and beat Samsonov to tie the game at 1-1 with exactly one second left on the clock.
The Capitals were obviously not happy with letting up that late goal and came out for the second period with plenty of jump, and it showed on the scoreboard as well. Dmitry Orlov received a Carlson pass that rattled around the boards, and Orlov blasted home a slapshot that beat Lyon on the blocker side. It gave Washington a 2-1 lead just 33 seconds into the period, and just like that the Flyers trailed again.
Philadelphia would respond just 4:55 later as Nic Aube-Kubel sprung James van Riemsdyk on a breakaway after the Flyers regained control of the puck after some pressure by the Capitals. van Riemsdyk skated on in alone and fooled Samsonov to score and even the game at two goals apiece.
The tie would not hold up very long however, as Philadelphia was back on the penalty kill just 43 seconds after van Riemsdyk’s 14th goal of the year. Aube-Kubel was whistled for hooking and Washington took all of four seconds on their power play to make it a 3-2 hockey game on another Ovechkin blast that blew by Lyon’s blocker.
The Capitals would continue to pound at the Flyers’ defense and at Lyon, who was doing all he could to keep Philadelphia in the game. Washington would eventually light the lamp again with 4:58 remaining thanks to Evgeny Kuznetsov. Tom Wilson threaded the needle through a couple of Philadelphia defenders and found Kuznetsov alone in the middle. Kuznetsov skated in and went upstairs on Lyon over the blocker to give the Capitals a 4-2 lead.
Shortly after his goal, Kuznetsov would be called for tripping against Voracek with 2:04 to play to put Philadelphia back on the power play. As usual, the Flyers’ power play did not convert and the Capitals exited the period with their two-goal advantage. The Capitals also lead in the shots on goal department 30-16 after two, and they had been the much better team over the Flyers so far.
Philadelphia would begin the period with a little more energy than before and drew another penalty on Washington just 1:09 in, this time on T.J. Oshie for interference on Phil Myers. Once again, the Capitals killed off the penalty and were 3-for-3 on kills up to that point in the game.
There will be a point that if you keep poking the bear long enough, it will eventually bite you, and that’s exactly what happened when Conor Sheary was sent off for tripping Wade Allison at the 5:14 mark of the third period and put Philadelphia’s power play back on the ice.
Giroux was once again involved in a Flyers goal as he dished the puck to Kevin Hayes, and Hayes found Allison on the doorstep as the rookie pounded home his first NHL goal on the power play to pull the Flyers within one and make it a 4-3 game with 12:58 to play in the period. Allison played well on Thursday and had another great game today, and he was rewarded for his efforts with his first goal at crucial time in the game.
Unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived as Lars Eller won a draw back to Justin Schultz and Schultz fired the puck at the stick of Sheary. Sheary was able to deflect home the shot past Lyon, again on his blocker side, to restore Washington’s 2-goal lead with 10:45 to play.
The Flyers would try to mount another comeback attempt, even pulling Lyon early for the extra attacker. Philadelphia would have a few shots on net but could not solve Samsonov again. Anthony Mantha would put the game away with 1:12 left in the period with an empty-netter to make it a 6-3 game in favor of the Capitals.
Washington would walk away from Wells Fargo Center with the 6-3 victory despite Philadelphia’s efforts and the Flyers now find themselves in an even larger hole in the standings as their playoff hopes continue to dwindle.
3 STARS OF THE GAME: 1) John Carlson – WSH, 2) Alex Ovechkin – WSH, 3) Wade Allison – PHI
- Wade Allison – Allison recorded his first NHL goal in the third period on the power play on a great tic-tac-toe play that featured Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux. Allison looked dangerous in his NHL debut on Thursday and looked more so today, and finally cashed in for his first big-league goal. Allison’s offensive skill is no secret as he was a great player in his college days at Western Michigan University and looked very strong in his brief stint with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms before his call-up, and hopefully this is a sign of what Allison can bring to a Flyers team that’s desperate for consistent offense.
- Claude Giroux – Giroux recorded two assists in today’s game, bringing him to 580 total in Orange and Black and his point total is now at 849, which puts him just one point shy of Brian Propp’s 850 for third in Flyers history. The captain has quietly put together a very good season in the wake of the Flyers’ struggles and is continuing to re-write Philadelphia’s history.
- James van Riemsdyk – van Riemsdyk ended a 17-game goalless drought with his breakaway tally in the second period, which is by far the longest he’s endured in his 12-year NHL career. He still has 14 goals on the season, which ranks second on the team and I’m not sure if that’s an indictment of how well he played earlier in the year, or how bad the rest of the team has been in scoring goals. Maybe it’s a mix of both.
- Special Teams – The Flyers’ power play and penalty kill had their fair share of problems again. The PK unit allowed two Washington goals and the power play only converted once on four opportunities. I feel like a broken record talking about the Flyers’ struggles with special teams game after game, but it’s a constant issue that they haven’t come close to fixing all year long and it’s just incredibly frustrating.
- Alex Lyon – Lyon was put in a very tough spot today with Carter Hart being a late scratch for the game, so I can’t 100% fault him for today’s loss, but his blocker side was particularly leaky today. You could see him overplaying a few goals and leaving just a little too much room on that side of the net and the Capitals took major advantage. Even when he was in better position, every single goal today beat him on that side. I can give him the benefit of the doubt that he has not played much at all this season between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley, and that today was his first NHL start in over a calendar year, but I just wish that he was a little bit better today.
The Flyers quickly return to action tomorrow at 6:30pm ET as they take on the New York Islanders at Wells Fargo Center to finish up their two-game mini-homestand. Philadelphia remains in sixth place in the East Division and are a whopping eight points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins, so there is no time to keep leaving points on the table as the season is coming to a slow and sad halt with seemingly no postseason in sight for Philadelphia.