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Capitals 5, Flyers 3: Flyers play good, still lose

Two very late goals sink a decent effort by a depleted Philly lineup.

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The Flyers—the last place team in the Metropolitan Division that has racked up two separate 10-game losing streaks this season—came into a game tonight against the Washington Capitals—perennial contender and offensive juggernaut—without much hope for a positive outcome. But it wasn’t until just a few minutes before the final buzzer that this game felt like a lost cause for the Flyers. They played a superior team to a tie through 58 minutes, outshooting them 26-21 at even strength and 33-25 at all strengths, but extended their current losing streak to four games thanks to two late goals from Garnet Hathaway and an icer from John Carlson.

For those who are truly Team Tank, this game wasn’t the worst outcome. The Flyers played well and it was a pretty exciting game to watch in general, with some goals, a kinda fight, and a good amount of special teams play, and then when it appeared the game may be barreling towards overtime and a loser point, the Capitals put it out of reach and kept the Flyers off the board in that respect.

The Flyers will be at home for the foreseeable future, but will be off for the weekend. They’ll next take the ice on President’s Day at 3 p.m., a day that some of us do not have off because of earlier snow days. It’s also the Flyers Pride Night, so prepare to be underwhelmed by whatever half-hearted attempt they make at that, I guess.

First period

The first period opened with a prime Capitals scoring chance that Martin Jones managed to deflect just enough and clanged off the crossbar and away. Less than a minute later Max Willman drew a tripping penalty on Michal Kempný in the neutral zone and the Flyers were given two minutes to move the puck around in the offensive zone.

The best Flyers chance in the next 10 minutes came on a John Carlson turnover that ended up on Cam Atkinson’s stick in the slot that he fired off Carlson’s pads. Other than that, the puck spent a lot of its ice time in the Jones zone (aka the Flyers’ defensive zone when Martin Jones is in net which he was tonight), as the Capitals more than doubled up the Flyers in 5-on-5 shot attempts through 15 minutes, 15-7.

The Capitals finally broke the ice in the period’s final two minutes when a Michal Kempný point shot snuck past a screened Martin Jones and into the back of the net. The Caps took a one-goal lead into the first intermission.

Second period

The Flyers kicked off the second period with an opportunity created by a hard forechecking Scott Laughton, who slung a pass to Travis Konecny in front of Ilya Samsonov, with the Capitals’ goaltender fending the shot off. A big hit from Laughton on Kempný in the corner led to what we will generously call a fight between Laughton and Trevor van Riemsdyk. TvR would be assessed an instigator penalty, and, this time, the Flyers actually did something with it. It was the second unit that broke through; Isaac Ratcliffe recovered a loose puck, moved it to Oskar Lindblom in the slot who moved it across to a wide open Gerald Mayhew. The goal was Mayhew’s fourth of the season and first with his stellar stitched up black eye.

In the shift immediately after the goal, the Flyers fourth line took the hitting a little too far and Ratcliffe found himself joining Laughton in the box for interference. The Flyers killed off over a minute of the penalty before Cam Atkinson lofted the puck from his own zone out of play at the other end of the rink, leading to a Capitals’ 5-on-3.

The two-man advantage led to a number of classic Alex Ovechkin rippers, one that missed and another that seemed to dent Martin Jones’ right post. The first penalty expired in concert with a Flyers’ clear that resulted in what looked like it was going to be a decent chance for Ratcliffe coming out of the box, but he was taken down by Carlson and the Capitals would eventually score down the other end of the ice when someone named Joe Snively (not made up) scooped up his own rebound in traffic and found twine. It was Snively’s fourth goal of the season and fourth in his last four games.

A quick-passing rush that began with Claude Giroux, went through Travis Konecny, and ended with a Travis Sanheim goal tied the game at two just as Lou Nolan announced the final minute of play in the period.

The Flyers finished the period with double the Capitals’ 5-on-5 shot attempts, 18-9, and an advantage in 5-on-5 shots on net, 10-3.

Third period

There wasn’t a ton of action in the third period until back-to-back Capitals penalties put the Flyers up two players with over 90 seconds. The first was a hook on Giroux by Kempný and the other a dangerous-looking Tom Wilson knee-to-knee trip on Scott Laughton entering the zone. Laughton looked shaken up but stayed on the bench.

Despite a determined-looking Claude Giroux and one nice passing play from van Riemsdyk to Konecny, the Flyers did not score on their two-man advantage. Laughton would then take a tripping penalty on the very next shift, leading to some nose-to-nose action between him and Wilson.

The Flyers killed off the ensuing Capitals power play—though not without a few scares, as the Capitals top unit looked locked on on their first shift.

A puck buried behind a mass of bodies in the corner would lead to a penalty called on Keith Yandle—something that Yandle was not very happy about. Fortunately, the vague misconduct penalty he received was also doled out to the Caps’ Nic Dowd and we were treated to some 4-on-4 hockey. Nothing would come out of the extra ice, but just after the penalties expired Travis Sanheim made a hard drive to the net and backhanded a puck off Samsonov’s stick. Gerry Mayhew found the rebound and put it home for his second of the night.

It was just a minute later when John Carlson took a point wrister that bounced off an entangled Garnet Hathaway and ended up in the net. Hathaway would find the net again, this time with his stick, just a moment later off a nice forecheck and pass from Carl Hagelin. The Flyers were forced to pull Jones on the next power play, leading almost immediately to a slow (slow, slow) motion empty netter off a clear by John Carlson from behind his own net.

Stray observations:

  • I thought Ovechkin looked weirdly lethargic tonight. He took his one-timers, but rarely seemed to expend much energy in following them up, didn’t make many drives towards the net or lay any hits, wasn’t really hunting for rebounds, and was pretty easily upended at one point as the result of a netfront battle and stayed on his butt for what felt like a long time. He finished the game with two shots on goal and one at even strength.
  • Scott Laughton put in yet another in a string of strong games. Laughton was all over the ice at both ends, often the first in on the forecheck and making things happen. He created a number of chances even though he didn’t end up on the scoresheet. He also got into it with the Caps on a few occasions, even standing up to both Wilson and Ovechkin on separate plays. The anger in his resting face has truly carried over to his play in this recent stretch.
  • Joe Snively feels like the DC’s version of Gerry Mayhew. Undrafted, small guy, career AHLer, last name that sounds like it’s out of a Dr. Seuss book, scored their fourth goal of the season tonight. Our version took a little longer to get to that fourth goal, but not much, but got his fifth tonight as well. Snively is also three years younger than Mayhew, but there’s no Mayhem that erupts when he scores, so that basically evens out.
  • Announcers love when there are two brothers in a game, like there was tonight with James van Riemsdyk playing for the Flyers (allegedly) and Trevor van Riemsdyk for the Capitals. And you know what? So do I. I mean, how cute is it that two guys who probably bathed together at some point have to pretend like they are enemies for a few hours?

Stray stats:

  • Michal Kempný’s goal was his first NHL goal since he scored two in an October 25, 2019 Capitals win over the Vancouver Canucks. That’s 847 days, 162 Capitals games, and one global pandemic between goals.
  • This was the first game of a season-high eight-game homestand. The Flyers won’t play outside of Philadelphia again until March 10, when they’ll take on the Florida Panthers in Sunrise. That stretch of home games includes another against the Capitals in just nine days.
  • Tonight’s second Flyers goal was the 13th Travis-to-Travis goal (between these two Travis’s, that is), with Sanheim recording assists on 8 of Konecny’s goals, and Konecny recording assists on 4 of Sanheim’s prior to tonight.
  • There are 13 more Flyers games between now and the trade deadline. Claude Giroux’s assist tonight gave him 896 points in his career. He’s got 11 more games to 1,000 and 4 more points to becoming the second Flyer ever to record 900. Will he record those statistics in orange and black? We’ll see.
  • Elsewhere around the league in contention for the top lottery odds we saw both the Canadiens and the Senators record wins, but the Sabres record a loss.