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Capitals 5, Flyers 2: We’re all losing a must-win game, when you really think about it

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Carter Hart’s return did not go according to plan, as the Flyers couldn’t dig their way out of an early hole.

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Don’t have heroes.

Well, that’s not true. Let me rephrase: Carter Hart is our hero, but even he isn’t superhuman enough to dig this team out of the hole it’s dug for itself in the playoff picture.

The first game of a crucial six-day, four-game stretch did not go well for the orange and black, who fell at home to the Capitals by a score of 5-2. The loss is the Flyers’ second loss against Washington in just nine days, and it further cuts down the already-impossibly-slim margin for error that this team has in its frantic chase for one of the East’s final playoff spots. James van Riemsdyk and Scott Laughton scored for the Flyers, but you know how it goes against the Capitals: sometimes Brett Connolly just takes over the game, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Relive the magic with us below, minute-by-minute, as we reacted in real time to the Flyers’ latest setback.


6:45 p.m.: So I hear a lot about how this game is a “must-win”. You know what? Back in my day, every game was a must-win. These folks are professionals. Why aren’t they winning every time out? It’s their one job. Preposterous, if you ask me.

Anywho, the Flyers kick off a very challenging four-game swing tonight, and they’re probably going to need to win at least three of these four games to have a realistic shot at a playoff berth when it’s over. And this one is up against a team that was up 5-0 on the Flyers not even halfway into the game eight days ago. And it’s without one of their best players. Who’s worried? I’m not worried. You’re worried.

6:51 p.m.: Apparently this is the game where the Flyers wear their green jerseys in warm-ups.

Here’s what I’m wondering: Why isn’t Carter wearing an O’Hart jersey? Play the hits, guys.

7:05 p.m.: JVR/Patrick/Konecny and Provorov/Sanheim are your starters tonight in front of Hart.

7:09 p.m.: Fun little fact pointed out by the Courier-Post’s Dave Isaac: the starting lineup tonight (outside of Hart) consists entirely of Flyers first-round picks. And what’s wild is that none of them ever left. Definitely didn’t trade any of them for a sixth defenseman and lose out on almost his entire prime, no sir.

And with that, off we go.

7:11 p.m.: Tom Wilson takes a big hit from Sean Couturier and is slow to get up and hobble his way to the bench. Boy, you just hate to see it.

7:12 p.m.: Oops. Michal Kempny fakes the shot from the point, finds an open Brett Connolly by the post, and he slams the puck home before Hart can get over. 1-0 Washington, just under three minutes in. Cool. This is cool.

7:16 p.m.: Good shift there where the Flyers come pretty close to tying the game a couple of times. Lindblom and Giroux just miss connecting on a 2-on-1 (great play by Carlson to tie up Giroux before he can corral the puck), and the Flyers are able to keep the pressure on through a line change.

7:17 p.m.: Justin Bailey sighting. He’s back. Remember him? He certainly does play hockey for the Flyers.

...

If you’re looking for me to say more here, yeah, I got nothing. Hello, Justin.

7:20 p.m.: Ah, yes. Pain. That’s the feeling. Sanheim fails to clear the puck before he can escape the zone, it makes its way to Eller down low, and he collects his own rebound on Hart and scores. It’s 2-0 and we haven’t hit the first commercial break. This is what we get for having hope.

7:23 p.m.: Remember eight days ago when Washington scored twice in the opening period and then three more times right after the second period started? No? Excellent, I don’t either. “Positive vibes only,” mutters the recapper, sitting in the fetal position from his desk chair.

7:27 p.m.: Washington nearly makes it 3-0 off a near-miss on a Hart rebound. Not much doing for the guys in orange since that second goal.

7:33 p.m.: Radko Gudas just had the best offensive shift that a Flyer has had in about ten minutes, which should pretty much tell you how this period is going.

7:34 p.m.: And the refs, who definitely did not treat the first period like a must-win game and have let some things go, finally decide to partake in tonight’s happenings and call Brooks Orpik for interfering with Claude Giroux. The call comes with exactly one minute left, meaning that the Flyers will get a power play perfectly split between two periods. Unless they wanna get real weird and actually score on the power play.

7:38 p.m.: The first half of that power play comes and goes with absolutely nothing happening, which is fitting for this period. The Flyers head into the locker room after 20 down 2-0. Did I enjoy that period? No. Will things get better? Well, I cannot tell a lie (it’s in my contract), so, no comment.

7:56 p.m.: Flyers are back at it with a minute of power play time to start the second period.

7:57 p.m.: THINGS HAPPENED AND THEN MORE THINGS HAPPENED AND THE FLYERS SCORED

7:57 p.m.: Alright, let’s breathe. Here’s what happened: Tom Wilson won a race to the loose puck just inside the blue line and had the inside track on a breakaway on Hart, but Gostisbehere catches up with him. Wilson then looks to make a pass across on a 2-on-1, but Ghost makes an outstanding sliding play to break up said pass, then gets up and gets a hold of the puck, then moves the puck back up into the offensive zone and passes it over to James van Riemsdyk, who wires an excellent shot over Holtby to cut the lead to 2-1. Events transpired.

7:59 p.m.: Aahhhhhhhhhh and Holtby denies Lindblom in very close with a golden chance to tie the game up. And then as I finish typing that a long shot by Giroux is tipped by ... that looks like Nick Jensen? ... and just past the net. Fair to say the Flyers have woken up a bit.

8:00 p.m.: Here, have a hockey goal. Nice shot by JvR, who now has 25 goals this season and could feasibly still hit 30 despite missing a month-plus.

And here’s the whole sequence leading up to the goal:

8:03 p.m.: Radko Gudas called for ... lightly nudging Timothy Jimothy Oshie in front of the net, and the Flyers will try to keep the good energy of this period’s first five minutes going as they head to the penalty kill for the first time tonight.

8:04 p.m.: Hart with the PK save on The Ovechkin Power Play Shot. Hard not to like that.

8:06 p.m.: And again! Pretty good penalty kill for the Flyers, and Phil Myers snuffs out a rush chance by Carl Hagelin seconds after it expires.

8:11 p.m.: Sure. This season would essentially die on the stick of Brett Connolly, who scores his second goal (and collects his third point) of the night after taking the shot on the 3-on-2 and beating Hart up high, just seconds after another good shift by the Flyers. The puck bounced on Myers at the blue line, he mishandled it, and the Caps were off to the races from there. 3-1 Washington.

8:15 p.m.: Oh dear. Carter, dear, no. 4-1 Washington. Kuznetsov (who, in our wonderful goalie’s defense, was given far too much time to do this) sells the shot by the left post long enough to drag Hart alllllll the way over, then spots Wilson in the slot, and from there ol’ Tommy hit the net with that shot harder than he typically hits a defenseless player into the boards from behind. I’m not having fun.

8:16 p.m.: And Washington almost immediately makes it 5-1 two separate times. So we’re just playing last week’s game again. Neat. The Flyers then get a chance as Patrick has a chance in close but Holtby shuts it down and it’s 4-1 as we cross the halfway mark of regulation.

8:20 p.m.: Connolly nearly gets the hat trick as a shot very slowly trickles through Hart’s pads and in, but he stops it before it gets there (and then gets a somewhat friendly whistle) to keep things where they are. It hasn’t all been bad for Hart in his first game in three weeks, but it’s tough to deny he’s been a bit rusty on a whole.

8:22 p.m.: Well hey, there’s a thing. Nice cross-ice pass from the point by Hagg creates some confusion in front, and Hartman shuffles the puck over to Laughton, who slams it into the open left half of the net to make it 4-2.

8:24 p.m.: Points in six straight games now for Scott Laughton. This goal marks Ryan Hartman’s third point as a Flyer. That ... is more points than Wayne Simmonds has as a Predator. Huh.

8:30 p.m.: Radko Gudas lost his glove during that shift, then almost just picked it up while handling the puck. Bold.

8:34 p.m.: Raffl pulls on Jensen with a minute left in the second period and that — behind the Capitals’ net — is a bad penalty at this point in the game. Flyers will have to split a penalty kill across two periods, much like the Capitals did a period ago.

8:35 p.m.: Giroux wins a race to a loose puck down below the Caps’ goal line on the PK, then tries unsuccessfully to lacrosse-goal it past Holtby from behind the net. But he didn’t miss by much! Anywho, the Flyers kill off the first part of that penalty and once again head into intermission down by two goals, this time by a count of 4-2.

8:39 p.m.: Carlson gets to Giroux just in time to make him pull up a bit short on this one. Alas.

8:55 p.m.: The third is underway. Well, has been for about a minute now. Pretty good effort on the PK there by the Flyers, who shut down the Washington man-advantage for the second time tonight.

9:02 p.m.: And after a few chances in both directions, Raffl heads right back to the penalty box, as he hooks Orlov to catch up to a loose puck and gets called for it. After two iffy penalty calls tonight, that one was a bit more open-and-shut. Flyers need to get a kill here.

9:04 p.m.: Turns out they only needed 36 seconds to do so. Kuznetsov trips Couturier in the corner, and we’ll get some 4-on-4 followed by an abbreviated Flyers man-advantage on the other side of a commercial break.

9:11 p.m.: And shortly after that one expires, the Flyers will get a full shot at a power play, as Backstrom obstructs Couturier in the offensive zone. Please score here, the Flyers. Not for me, but for Carter. And also for me.

9:13 p.m.: Not to be the SHOOOOOOOOT Person, because this power play probably has earned the benefit of the doubt, but ... probably should have shot it a couple times there, guys. And then, when they do, Holtby gets over in time to shut down a chance by Giroux.

9:16 p.m.: Well, we can safely say the refs have finally realized that this is a must-win game. Patrick is hit away from the puck by Jensen in the Washington zone, and the Flyers will get their third power play of the period. I know that the other ones were important, but this one ... is also important.

9:20 p.m.: Couturier hasn’t looked out of place in Voracek’s spot on the power play, but he hasn’t quite had the same chemistry with Giroux as he does in the slot, and he mishandles a cross-ice pass from the captain. Team as a whole has flubbed its fair share of opportunities that way tonight, really. The power play comes and goes without incident and the Flyers drop to 0-of-4 on the night with under seven minutes left in regulation.

9:29 p.m.: Hart is pulled, and the Capitals almost immediately end things. Ovechkin gets the puck out of the defensive zone past Provorov and sends it up to Kuznetsov, who finds the empty net. 5-2 is going to be your final score, barring any last-second funny business.

9:32 p.m.: Also, JvR hobbled off the ice shortly before that empty-netter following a collision. This is fine. Tough to tell exactly what is hurt here, but hard not to worry a bit about a guy who already missed a month this year.

9:33 p.m.: There is no last-second funny business. The Flyers lose the first game of this season-defining four-game stretch by a score of 5-2. Toronto tomorrow, Pittsburgh on Sunday, Montreal on Tuesday. Probably going to have to win all three to realistically stay in the hunt. So it goes. When you don’t show up for the first three months of the season, you have to show up for every game in the second half, or this shit happens. See you tomorrow. Go Flyers. Save us, Jake.