Wednesday night, fresh off an upset victory over an injury-plagued Colorado Avalanche team, the Philadelphia Flyers had a chance to take down another strong team missing several key contributors due to various ailments — the Washington Capitals.
The Capitals have been without Nicklas Backstrom, their top-line center, and Tom Wilson, their physically imposing scoring winger, for the entire season. And in their second meeting against the Flyers, they were also without defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Martin Fehervary, along with Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
But the Caps still have Alex Ovechkin, and the Flyers were unable to keep him from potting a pair of (empty-net) goals to move closer to history. Washington earned the 4-1 victory at Wells Fargo Center to stay perfect against the Flyers on the season.
Ovechkin now sits just 99 markers shy of No. 99’s all-time goals record of 894.
The Great Eight’s second empty-net goal sparked a bit of a melee after the whistle. Following the 12-time All-Star’s very casual tally, Flyers forward Travis Konecny confronted Ovechkin before being sent to the locker room early. But at that point, the game was pretty much won with just 8.2 seconds remaining in the final frame.
“It might’ve not looked as bad,” said Konecny. “I personally thought he deked it and put it in with his backhand, but maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought.”
Travis Konecny wasn't happy with how Alex Ovechkin scored his second empty-net goal pic.twitter.com/RFF1UssBZ8— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) December 8, 2022
The Flyers got off to a strong start on the night. In the first period, Kevin Hayes netted a goal on the power play to break the ice. However, Hayes’ tally ended up being the Flyers’ only marker in the tilt.
The Flyers power play, which has been ranked dead-last in the league for much of the season, has suddenly caught fire — at least by the Flyers’ standards. The power play has now scored in three straight games, resulting in four total goals.
Unfortunately, the Capitals’ power play showed up as well. Just 3:51 into the second period, T.J. Oshie scored on the man advantage to tie the game.
Penalties were a major issue for the Flyers early in the game. The team took four penalties in the game’s first 22 minutes, and while the Capitals only managed to convert on one of their power-play opportunities, the infractions still changed the pace of the contest.
“You can’t give that team the amount of power play time that we gave them,” said Hayes. “That’s a major part of the game. They get momentum, and then they ultimately score on their third or fourth one, and it’s kind of what cost us the game tonight.”
Just before the midway point of the third period, Washington forward Dylan Strome netted his sixth goal of the season with a redirection to put his club in front. From there, the Capitals managed to keep the Flyers off the scoreboard to preserve the lead, though Hayes did come close to netting the equalizer.
Juuuuust wide for Kevin Hayes with the net open. pic.twitter.com/h8YsmyCnco— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) December 8, 2022
Carter Hart, as has typically been the case in the season’s early going, played admirably Wednesday night, finishing with 23 saves on 25 Washington shots.
James van Riemsdyk, who has been out of commission since October 23 due to a fractured finger, was back in the lineup skating on the third line with Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett. JVR led the Flyers in goals last season, and his return is certainly a welcome one for a team struggling to find the back of the net. Still, in just 12:47 of ice time, the 33-year-old was unable to get on the board.
“We just struggle generating offense. It’s a problem here,” said head coach John Tortorella. “Some is confidence, some is just — we just struggle offensively.”
The Flyers will begin a four-game road trip out west Friday night against the Vegas Golden Knights, followed by a trip to Tempe to take on the Arizona Coyotes. They will then take on the Avalanche in Denver before returning east to face off against the New Jersey Devils in Newark to wrap up the voyage.
“Going on the road, and this type of trip here, going out west, I think it’ll be good for our team,” said Tortorella. “We’re playing some really good hockey teams, but we’ve been here a while. Five games at home, it’s enough. It’s time to get on the road.”