Sure, the Flyers beating this season's President's Trophy winner, the Washington Capitals, is unlikely, but possible. Sure, the Flyers winning a game in a shootout is unlikely, but also a thing that in theory could happen.
But both of those things? In the same game? Come on. No way that would ever happen, right?
Except that's what did happen, as one of the more high-paced and eventful 2-1 hockey games you'll see this year ended with Steve Mason shutting down two Capitals in the skills competition and Nick Cousins and Sam Gagner both beating Braden Holtby to give the Flyers a huge, huge win and pad their standing as the Eastern Conference's final playoff team.
It was a game that -- outside of the fact that it, of course, ended in a shootout -- had that "playoff atmosphere" kind of feel to it, as a low-scoring affair with lots of tight checking (and lots let go by the officiating, if we're being honest here) still saw plenty of action and chances that were snuffed out at the last second by key plays in front of the net as well as good goaltending on each side.
That's how we ended up getting through the first two periods with no goals for either side. Outside of a stretch early in the second period where the Flyers pretty handily controlled the flow of play, the action was pretty back and forth on each side, but a number of near misses and solid defensive plays kept each team waiting for their first chance to light the lamp for a while.
And it was the visitors who would get that chance first. A late second period penalty by Brandon Manning carried over into the third, and with just seconds remaining in the man-advantage for Washington, a great pass along the goal line from Evgeny Kuznetsov made it over to Alex Ovechkin. From there, Ovechkin did what Ovechkin does, and the Caps had a 1-0 lead.
a very Ovechkin goal pic.twitter.com/WzzmC2aBUq— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 31, 2016
From there, a game that had already been pretty chippy in the first two period got increasingly physical and even a bit ugly. The officials seemed content to let a whole lot of things go until calling Matt Niskanen for a pretty rough hit on Claude Giroux on the defensive zone boards, only to then take the Flyers right back off the power play thanks to a similarly bad cross-check committed by Ryan White. There would be more scuffles that didn't draw penalties, and another still that would lead to some four-on-four hockey.
But the last penalty of the period would give the Flyers a power play, and after a couple of near misses, the Flyers' top unit would break their ten-game goalless streak at a most opportune time. A Giroux shot from his spot on the left wall was tipped by Brayden Schenn up and over Holtby and into the net, and the Flyers had tied things up with under six minutes left in regulation.
The Flyers would definitely do their best to slow things down and play for a point in the third period's final minutes, and they'd succeed in doing just that, as the score would remain 1-1 and the game would head to overtime.
If you, for some reason, thought the rather hectic, high-tempered feel to this game would die down a bit in the 3-on-3 extra frame, you'd be mistaken. Three more penalties were called in overtime, including a Wayne Simmonds trip that forced the Flyers to endure and kill off a 4-on-3 early on in the period. (A pair of offsetting minors were called on Sean Couturier and Braden Holtby a few minutes later.) But a couple of near-misses for Washington on that power play were the closest anyone got to scoring in the OT period, and from there the Flyers would do what the Flyers do best: lose in the shootout.
...sorry, that's instinct kicking in. The Flyers won in the shootout. Thanks in large part to this save.
Steve Mason my god pic.twitter.com/sDXYZpHLrn— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 31, 2016
Quite a fun hockey game -- in a matchup that we very well could be seeing again in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs -- ended up going the right way on the scoreboard, and now the Flyers head into their hellish three-back-to-back stretch to end the season with that much more breathing room.
Questions to Answer:
- How do the Flyers match their top two lines against those talented top two Washington lines, and how does it go for them? At evens,Couturier matched up with Ovechkin, and his line did very well for the most part given how difficult a match up that is. Giroux and co. got Backstrom's line and fought them reasonably well, though I'd give a bit of an edge to the visitors there.
- How hard does Washington go in this one, the game after they've clinched the President's Trophy but against a team that they may face in the first round of the playoffs? They've probably had better showings this year, but they definitely brought it tonight. Very good all-around effort by both sides, I thought. Fun game of hockey.
- Do we witness anything more strange than a Nick Schultz goal (which we got the last time these teams played)? The broadcast continuously heaping praise on Tom Wilson for a solid five minutes in the first period was kind of strange, but nothing too odd on-ice, I think.
- Steve Mason: still holding up in his seventh straight game? What do you think?
- The penalty kill's been outstanding lately. Today it gets to deal with Alex Ovechkin. How's that go?Ovi got his on the Caps' lone goal of the night. Pretty tough to stop him when he does that. Big, big kill for the Flyers in 4-on-3 during overtime, though.
Comment of the Night:
Amazing hand-eye coordinaschenn
-- The Dark, on Schenn's goal
Ottawa on Saturday. Pittsburgh on Sunday. Lock this down. Go Flyers.