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Capitals 5, Flyers 3: Two-goal lead turns south quick in D.C.

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Flyers unable to make early 2-0 lead stick in loss to Caps.

Philadelphia Flyers v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Flyers got off to a fast start, but it was the Capitals who won the race at the end of 60 minutes on Wednesday night.

A 2-0 lead after one period turned into a 5-3 loss after three periods as the Flyers were unable to take home any points against a team ahead of them in the playoff race. For a second-straight game goaltending was an issue as Michal Neuvirth allowed five goals on 20 shots before giving way to Alex Lyon in the third period.

Despite turning in what happened to be a dominant first period, the Flyers didn’t respond well to the Caps’ push in the second period and then just fell flat for the most part in the third.

The Flyers were looking for a quick start, and it was a new line that would provide just that. Wayne Simmonds found Nolan Patrick on a 2-on-1 and the rookie roofed a backhand over Brayden Holtby’s blocker to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead just 1:18 in. Patrick was promoted to the second line with Simmonds and Jake Voracek over the All-Star break, and he didn’t waste time burying the first shot of the game.

Another odd-man rush would give Travis Konecny a golden chance to stretch the lead, but Holtby came up with a nice glove save on the forward at the 13:56 mark. It was Konecny who sank the Capitals with a beautiful goal in overtime in their last meeting just over a week ago.

But the Flyers’ hottest forward wouldn’t be held down by Holtby for long.

Just 1:56 later, Konecny would follow up a net drive from Sean Couturier and deposit the loose puck in the empty cage as Holtby was taken out by one of his own defenseman. It’s the fifth straight game Konecny has scored in, and his 11th of the season, as Couturier picked up the lone assist.

With 4:16 left and mostly with a dominant first period, Robert Hagg would take the games first penalty and put a dangerous Caps power play out there with a chance to cut into the Flyers’ lead.

The Flyers made defending the Caps’ talented power play look easy, killing off the man-advantage without allowing a single shot on goal.

Early on in the second the Caps would get a break as Chandler Stephenson fired a shot from a terrible angle that found it’s way past Neuvirth 2:14 in to cut the Flyers’ lead to 2-1.

After a mostly dominant first period, it was an awful time for the Flyers’ goalie to take a nap on what should have been an innocuous play.

It would prove to be momentum changer, too, as the Caps wouldn’t waste much time knotting the score shortly after.

Just 47 seconds later, Stephenson would add his second goal of the game to tie things up at 2-2. A stretch pass from Madison Bowey took advantage of a slow Flyers line change and a poor play by Brandon Manning to spring Stephenson for the goal.

Claude Giroux nearly responded for the Flyers following Stephenson’s pair of tallies, but Brayden Holtby came up with a pair of great pad saves on the captain to keep things tied.

Jori Lehtera would draw the Flyers’ first power play of the night just after the second of Giroux’s chances, after which John Carlson hauled him down with 10:12 left in the period. The Flyers’ best chance wouldn’t come until late in the man-advantage on a deflection that could have been contested as being played with a high stick.

After killing off the Caps’ first power play, an Andrew Macdonald slashing call with 6:36 left in the second would again test the Flyers’ penalty kill against the loaded Capitals attack.

MacDonald’s penalty would prove to be costly, though, with Andre Burakovsky giving the Caps a 3-2 lead with a tip right in front of the crease. Lars Eller sent the pass across the crease and Burakovsky out-muscled Brandon Manning in front to position his stick for the deflection.

If the first 20 minutes were exactly what Dave Hakstol drew up for his club, the second 20 minutes certainly weren’t. Mental breakdowns by Neuvirth and Brandon Manning wasted what would have otherwise been a fine period. Mistakes like those make it easy to turn a 2-0 lead into a 3-2 hole real quick.

There wasn’t much of a let down to start the third after surrounding their two-goal lead as the Flyers dominated the first two shifts with their top two lines. Unfortunately, it would lead to a Nolan Patrick offensive zone penalty 4:16 in to kill some of that early jump.

The Caps’ power play would then squash the rest of the Flyers early momentum with their second power play goal of the game, this time courtesy of T.J. Oshie. Robert Hagg lost his stick on the play and led to some lax coverage of Oshie in the slot, who ripped a one-timer past Neuvirth to push the lead to 4-2 with 5:28 gone in the third.

The Flyers didn’t seem to recover from Oshie’s goal, as the Caps dominated the next few minutes and pushed hard for fifth goal, nearly getting one from an Alex Ovechkin drive that missed a wide-open net.

Devante Smith-Pelly would eventually cash in with his seventh of the season 9:06 in to push the lead to 5-2 in favor of the Caps. It also sparked a goaltending change as the Flyers would yank Michal Neuvirth in favor of Alex Lyon to make his NHL debut.

Following a Brandon Manning fight with Alex Chiasson, the Flyers would get one back from Jake Voracek to make it 5-3 with 9:29 left in regulation. Voracek tipped home a point shot from Ivan Provorov. Nolan Patrick picked up the second assist on the goal.

It was too little, too late this time for the Flyers, as the three-goal deficit would prove too much to overcome in the end. There were a few good saves from Lyon in his debut to feel good about for the Flyers, but not much else after blowing a 2-0 first period lead to a team ahead of them in the playoff standings.