If you couldn't tell from the tone of my preview of today's game, I entered this game with a fairly high sense of skepticism. The Flyers, while only four points back of a playoff spot, have given us glimpses of optimism at points this season, but for the most part it's been sandwiched between multiple-game stretches of crap.
And shortly after the Capitals scored two power play goals following a pair of extra penalties on the team's new enforcer, Jakub Voracek (who, as we said earlier today, may be the Flyers' best player), I think we all felt that sense of dejection that we were about to head down the chute again and make ourselves comfy in 14th in the Eastern Conference.
But then a funny thing happened. Remember this, just three days ago?
The Flyers aren't good, but it's also pretty clear at this point that they've just utterly checked out and are ready for the offseason. After a strong first period tonight in which they jumped out to a 2-0 lead, they sat back for much of the latter two periods, letting the Islanders back into the game and ultimately falling behind 3-2.
Travis was absolutely right when he said that. So many times in the last couple of weeks this team's just looked done.
But tonight? Down 4-2 with under eight minutes left, in a game that for all intents and purposes would have marked the end of this team's playoff chase with a loss? Not even close. After Alex Ovechkin's goal with 13:12 remaining in regulation, the Flyers started going hard at the Capitals' end.
Granted, down two goals with your season on the line it'd be fairly alarming if they WEREN'T going hard at the Caps (y'know, score effects and all)...but we've been alarmed by this team a lot this season, haven't we? Tonight, that urgency that seems been lacking for so long was actually there.
And this time they were rewarded for it.
Claude Giroux -- who committed a brutal turnover on the penalty kill that led to the Capitals' third goal -- launched an absolute rocket from the left side on the power play with 7:12 left in the game. A few more chances came in the following minutes, but nothing real close until the final minute of the game.
Up a man with Bryz on the bench, the Flyers absolutely hemmed Washington in their own end, had several near misses, and it wasn't until 10 seconds left when Kimmo Timonen -- God bless him, the only unquestionably high-quality defenseman left on this team -- launched another bomb, this one from the point, that beat Braden Holtby clean on the glove side.
And even though you're a damned liar if you say you had Ruslan Fedotenko pegged as the guy who was going to score the OT winner (on another beautiful play by Timonen), it almost seemed inevitable that they were going to win this one in the extra frame. Because like I said: this team's spent all season finding a way to reel us back in when they look dead. Clearly, they aren't done doing that just yet.
Stats:Game summary | Event summary
Ice time: Flyers | Lightning | H2H
Shots: Differential | Full report
Shift charts | Zone starts | Faceoffs
* Not sure what to make of the defense in this one. Four goals against is never a good thing, but the Caps' goals came on a beautiful deflection from Nicklas Backstrom, a breakaway immediately following a Flyers power play, and two on the Caps' power play. I'm not gonna say I loved what I saw, but it could've been worse. Some nice saves from Ilya Bryzgalov, as well.
* Oliver Lauridsen again did a decent job while being put on the ice against some tough players, but he's now committed three minor penalties in his time up here. He's gonna have to knock that off if he wants to keep helping this team.
* There are really no words for how awesome Kimmo Timonen is. The guy's taken a lot of heat this year from fans, and no, he's not the player he was five years ago or even two. But he's far and away the best defenseman on this team, and he did a more than admirable job of holding that blueline together this weekend. And that's before you even mention him playing an absolutely crucial role in four different Flyers goals tonight. The Finnish God of Defense is alive and kickin'.
* Did not, all things considered, love Voracek's move in the third period to fight Oleksy. I get sticking up for your best players, and I get the stigma towards not doing so. It's something we and a lot of other people criticized the Flyers for not doing on Thursday night when Giroux was hit by Lubomir Visnovsky, so I don't want to lay it on Jake too hard for his decision (personally, I didn't think the hit was that bad, but try telling that to any hockey player who sees their star player go flying on the ice). But even if that's so...in a tie game in the third period with your playoff hopes still on the line, at the absolute least you've got to know to take your helmet off there because you're going to get nailed for the visor penalty every time. The four minutes on the PK weren't good (obviously, they almost cost the team the game), and the whole part where the Flyers didn't have their best winger for 19 minutes of ice time in the third period was also a pretty crappy consequence. Again, I get emotion and how that all works, and I know that everyone who had something to say about it post-game had nothing but glowing words for Jake's effort there. But even without hindsight, you can question the decision. With hindsight, it looks even worse.
* Even with the really bad turnover on the PK, Captain Claude was all over the place tonight. Team-high seven shots on goal, the cannon on the PP, and a pretty incredible up-ice pass (or maybe it was just a clear, who knows) that sprung Matt Read to a breakaway goal. Giroux is up to 35 points in 35 games. And just think: this is a down year for him.
* A heck of a game for that Talbot-Couturier-Rinaldo line. Matched up a lot against Ovechkin's unit and fought them to a draw shot differential-wise, and Rinaldo and Talbot did some great work on the team's first goal. Couturier also picked up an A2 on the game-winner, his second straight game with a point, so maybe now he'll be able to get going again offensively.
* Did get some bad news, though: Talbot left the game in the second period and didn't return, and post-game reports seemed to indicate that he may miss a healthy amount of time. Wouldn't be a Flyers game without some depressing injury news but YOU WILL NOT LET ME STOP BEING OPTIMISTIC. DO YOU HEAR ME, HOCKEY GODS?
Anyways. I still don't want to see this team do anything drastic between now and Wednesday afternoon's trade deadline, but it's clear that for at least a few more games the Flyers are going to keep themselves in this race.
Questions with Answers:
- How does the Kent Huskins, The Savior™ era begin? Team-worst -14 in Corsi and was on the ice for that breakaway goal for the Caps. Let's just say maybe he's not the savior. Shocking, I know.
- The team defense, while horrifying on paper, was far, far better yesterday than we anticipated. Another pleasant surprise in this one? Obviously not as good as yesterday, but given the names in the lineup I thought it could've been worse, particularly at evens.
- Alex Ovechkin's on a seven-game point streak. Wanna end that? Nope. PPG in the third. Six shots on net. Reports of his demise from February miiiiiiight have been a little premature.
- Coming off of one of his better all-around games this season, what do we get from Brayden Schenn today? One power play assist and five shots on goal. Pretty solid night for him.
- The Flyers now have converted five straight (!) power plays. How's the man advantage look tonight? One for four. And a goal let in off a breakaway immediately following another one. So not quite as good.
- BONUS QUESTION: Union vs. Quinnipiac at 6:30 in the NCAA Tournament this evening. Epic battle for Flyers fans between, uh...Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Hughes. Who gets the win? Quinnipiac rolled, 5-1. Congrats, Travis.
Comment of the Night:
Could the Flyers season be risen from the dead... on Easter Sunday?
-- goldomatic, making probably the easiest joke of all time
Off until Wednesday night when they face Montreal at the WFC. We'll have lots to talk about between now and then. Go Flyers.