Remember that third period from Game 4 on Wednesday, when the Washington Capitals absolutely obliterated the Philadelphia Flyers for 20 minutes, but ultimately only scored one goal allowing the orange and black to hang on for an improbable victory?
Well, yeah. That was stressful and terrible and we all agreed that if it repeated itself at all tonight in Game 5 in D.C. that it would end the Flyers season. And yet, well ... somehow they let it happen for 60 entire minutes. And then they won the hockey game, 2-0. One of them was a damn empty netter by Chris VandeVelde.
And we'll have a hockey game at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon.
You can thank Michal Neuvirth for it. The Flyers goaltender, playing against a team and a city that gave him up in favor of current goalie Braden Holtby, absolutely stonewalled the Capitals for 44 saves in just an unreal performance. Even had the Flyers lost this game, it would have been one of the most incredible single-game playoff performances in Flyers goaltending history. Instead, it'll go down on the right side of the ledger.
Let's walk through it.
You could look at the first period in two ways: 1), the Flyers were able to escape with a tie in a game where their opponent came out of a cannon to start, and they were able to escape a power play unit that's decimated them in the series, as well. Or 2), that Washington again outclassed the Flyers, pressuring them into oblivion for the first 20 minutes of a period that could have been ugly without Neuvirth in goal.
In the second ... well, that's when this thing got really bizarre. The period began with a pair of penalty kills by each team, including Justin Williams' third minor of the night, which Washington successfully killed off without a Flyers shot on goal. Oh, but wait a second -- literally one second after the penalty expired, Ryan White was credited with a goal as greasy my hair after a week's vacation. It actually bounced off Taylor Chorney's skate and in behind Braden Holtby to give the Flyers the 1-0 lead.
It seemed rather unbelievable, to be honest. Still kind of does. The Capitals had the better of the chances and had been absolutely on fire for the entire second period, outshooting the Flyers a bajillion to six for the game. (I forgot to write down what the exact total was at that point so we'll just round up to a bajillion.) Washington was outplaying the Flyers in literally every single facet of the game except perhaps in net. And yet, the Flyers still somehow held the lead. With two shots on goal in the period. Including the one that went off the skate and in, which technically wasn't even really a shot.
The Flyers came out at least a little bit better in the third. On the third shift of the period, they got some controlled zone time for the first time in about 20 full minutes of play, and it ended with a Shayne Gostisbehere shot that beat everybody and hit the post. The frustrating thing is that shots that hit the post don't count as shots on goal, but from a process standpoint it certainly felt like things were shifting.
With about 12 minutes left, Jason Chimera clobbered Jakub Voracek with a hit from behind into the boards. It was just as bad if not worse than the hit Pierre-Edouard Bellemare delivered on Dmitry Orlov in Game 3, and that hit earned Bellemare a major penalty, a game misconduct and a one-game suspension. Chimera was given a two minute minor for boarding. The power play, as you might assume, was unsuccessful.
The rest of the third was relatively uneventful. The Flyers were not quite as pinned down as they had been earlier, and they did get out of the zone with control much more often. But despite the slight improvement, they were only able to get three shots on goal in the entire twenty minutes, plus the Ghost shot off the post, and including the empty netter.
They straight up did not deserve to win this hockey game tonight, but thats the playoffs. That's hockey. As the Caps learned in 2010 when they were also in the postseason as President's Trophy winners, a hot goaltender can kill you. It sure seems like the Flyers have one of those right now. See you on Sunday.
Questions with Answers
- Big part of the win on Wednesday was that the Flyers didn't take many bad penalties. Can they do that again tonight on the road? Not a ton of penalties, but when they did take them the penalty kill looked significantly better than it did earlier in the series.
- When it's not at 5-on-5, can the PP and PK keep up their generally-improved performances from last game? haha not a damn chance. This entire game was terrible at evens.
- Michal Neuvirth came up big in his first meaningful start in a month. He's gonna have to do it again tonight. Does he? "one of the best playoff performances by a Flyers goalie ever"
- If the Flyers ever get a lead, can they hold it a bit better than they did last game? miracle.
- Win? Please? See you Sunday.
Comment of the Night
A rare Flyer shot attempt appears!