The Flyers entered tonight's game fresh on a three-game losing streak, in which they had played pretty poor hockey for most of it, and their opponent was none other than the best team in hockey this season in the Washington Capitals. There was, frankly, not a lot of reason for optimism coming into this contest for the orange and black.
In some ways, then, a win over that aforementioned best team in hockey seems kind of fitting, doesn't it?
Whether or not anyone expected it, that's exactly what they got, as the Flyers weathered two blown leads and some long runs of home team dominance to grab a 4-3 overtime win, giving them something to build on as they head into the five-day All-Star break.
Facing off with a Capitals team that hadn't played since Tuesday of last week, the Flyers took advantage of a potentially-rusty team and got out to about as good of a first period as one could have expected. The Flyers were largely able to push play into the Capitals' end -- and unlike in recent games, there were moments of pretty consistent pressure from almost every forward unit, not just the team's top line.
All of which helped the Flyers outshoot the Capitals 12-6 in the frame, and ultimately saw two big Washington mistakes turn into Flyers goals. An interference penalty by noted oaf Tom Wilson put the Flyers on the power play early on, and it took them all of six seconds to cash in. Shayne Gostisbehere threaded the needle down low to Wayne Simmonds, who found Brayden Schenn all alone in front of Holtby. Schenn made no mistake on the finish, allowing the Flyers to draw first blood.
Later on in the period, another careless miscue gave the Flyers a chance to add to the lead -- but this time, it was arguably the Capitals' top forward this year, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who slipped up. Below his own goal line, Kuznetsov threw the puck out in front, where Ryan White stepped in right in the slot and essentially one-timed Kuznetsov's "pass" high-blocker side past Holtby to double the Flyers' surprising margin to two, which they would carry with them into the locker room.
After coming out flat in the first period, one could reasonably have expected the Capitals to come out firing in the second period. And they did that -- and then some. The first 15 or so minutes of the period were entirely controlled by the home team, as the Capitals -- pretty much from the start of the period up until Mark Streit registered the team's first shot on goal of the period at the period's 13:46 mark -- thoroughly dominated every square foot of the ice and were generating offensive zone pressure on what seemed to be almost every single shift, to the tune of 11 straight shots on net.
Unsurprisingly, that was enough for the Caps to erase the deficit in front of them. First, Andre Burakowsky picked up a loose puck that Michael Del Zotto couldn't handle, and he rifled it past Neuvirth from the high slot to get Washington on the board. Not even a minute later, T.J. Oshie managed to draw multiple Flyers in to him right on the goal line, then found Nicklas Backstrom gliding in towards the net and hit him with a perfect pass. That was all he'd need, as Backstrom beat Neuvirth to tie things up.
Yet, after the Flyers were finally able to stop the bleeding, it was they who ware able to somewhat control the last few minutes of the frame, tallying the last six shots on goal of the frame. And they were able to make one of those really count: a Claude Giroux faceoff win with under three minutes left in the period went right to the stick of Voracek, who beat Holtby clean from the circle to give the Flyers a lead going into the second intermission.
That lead would unfortunately not make it too far into the third period, though. Not long after an iffy non-call on Radko Gudas, who appeared to trip Kuznetsov on his way towards the Flyers' net but avoided the wrath of the officials, Kuznetsov again came barreling into the offensive zone, this time without the puck. However, a Scott Laughton mishandle gave the puck to the electrifying young Russian, and he managed to dish it over to Burakowsky for the tap-in and the tie game.
Both sides would have some near-misses from there, but it was the Flyers -- who, as you'll surely recall, have lost two of their last three games on last-second goals by their opponents -- who had to buckle down the hardest after a Matt Read hooking penalty with barely more than two minutes left. But after a tough past few games, the PK unit stepped way up, denying Washington of any really quality looks in the final minutes before overtime.
And once it reached overtime, the Flyers didn't need much time to finish things off. Down below the goal line, Voracek circled around the net with Kuznetsov draped over him. Cutting right in front of the net, Jake turned around and wired a shot to the top-right corner, beating Holtby (who had lost his stick seconds earlier, as Kuznetsov himself appeared to knock it out of his hands), ending the contest, and sending the Flyers to the break on a high note.
Additional observations to follow on Thursday morning.
Comment of the Night:
I think Jake was afraid that Ryan White was catching up in goals.