Once again the third period proved to be fatal for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Facing the Washington Capitals for the first time since an ugly 7-0 thrashing that led to the goalie fight heard ’round the world, the Flyers came into D.C. hoping to exact revenge, in a little cleaner fashion.
The game didn’t start the way they had hoped or planned as Alexander Ovechkin, who missed the first meeting, scored halfway through the first with a shot just above the faceoff circle that deflected off of Flyer defenseman Kimmo Timonen’s stick and past the out of position Steve Mason. Things seemed to be going the same route as the prior game as the Capitals dominated most of the first period from then on, never allowing the Flyers to formulate plays in Washington’s defensive zone, and it looked like the Caps would walk into the locker room with a 1-0 first period lead until currently hot Flyers rookie Michael Raffl flipped a nice back pass from the side of the goal to Captain Claude Giroux for a slick wrister past Caps rookie netminder Philipp Grubauer with just a minute left to even things out heading into the second.
Once the second began, things took a turn for the positive for the Flyers as they began to control the flow of the game in what may have been one of the best periods of hockey the Flyers have played all season long, keeping the Caps pinned down, and even grabbing the lead off the get go thanks to this when defenseman Mark Streit stole a pass and then played give and go with Raffl on a two on one situation that led to Streit burying one past the hapless Grubauer. Philly would go on to retain momentum holding the Caps to only 14 shots on goal through the first two, and keeping the always dangerous Ovechkin in check in the process.
However, both teams saved the fireworks for the last period.
The Flyers got this particular party started with a rush of two quick goals, the first coming off the stick of Sean Couturier on a ridiculously bad angled shot from past the goal line that somehow snuck right through Grubauer’s legs, and up went the Flyers, 3-1. Less than a minute later, Philly built on what felt at the time like an insurmountable lead when the revamped first line struck again, this time Jakub Voracek chipped in a shot from Raffl to go up 4-1.
Apparently the Caps had decided enough was enough at that point and embarked on a mission with minutes dwindling to climb out of the three goal hole and started pushing back until around the halfway mark of the third, things broke open. First, it was Mike Green snapping one past Mason after he was tricked out of position, and Washington was only down by two. A few minutes later, Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov sniped one in, in very similar fashion to Green’s earlier goal and the pressure began to mount on the Flyers to fend off the suddenly surging Capitals. What bothers me about these two goals was perhaps a sudden exposure of a crack in the armor of Mason, shooting from the point through traffic and at the sides of the net where he might not be guarding as much as putting his big body in the middle of the crease.
Down one, and with a minute remaining, the Caps finally evened it up, and on a six man with Ovechkin tallying his second and league leading 28th of the year. It seemed the Flyers momentum train had finally run off the rails. Both teams played evenly in the over time period with a few opportunities for each club until finally the single most dreaded moment that any Flyers fan has ever encountered came to be once more: the shoot out.
Washington led off, and Eric Fehr scored as the first one in thanks to a trickled in puck off an initial Mason stop. Matt Read attempted to counter, but his wrister was brushed aside, keeping the tally 1-0 in favor of the Caps. Ovechkin went next and thankfully missed out, giving the Flyers a glimmer of hope. Claude Giroux took the next run, and through a series of nifty moves, dangled the puck easily past Grubauer, knotting it at 1 all. Niklas Backstrom took the Caps third run on Mason, and blew a wrister by a doomed Mason, who was forced into squaring up centrally in net. Sean Couturier was the Flyers last chance to keep things going, but couldn’t get his own wrister in net, and thus completed the comeback for the Capitals. Both clubs will meet again, this time back on the ice where that 7-0 debacle occurred, Tuesday night, and perhaps the third time will be the charm for the Flyers in solving the puzzle known as the Washington Capitals.
It was fun to watch this game despite the loss simply because Michael Raffl might turn out to be a steal, and this year’s version of Matt Read. He snagged 3 points today, and seemed to have clicked immediately with Giroux and Voracek.
At least the Flyers grabbed a point. It’s not all doom and gloom…I think.