This game could’ve easily been a case of déjà vu. After all, the Flyers had just played the Washington Capitals at home on February 17, so to see them again so soon on the exact same homestand is a little odd.
Instead, the Flyers found a way to actually hold onto a lead. Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers won a game. They not only won a game, but they did it against one of the top teams in the Metropolitan Division.
If you don’t believe it, then take my rundown of what happened this afternoon in South Philadelphia as your proof that you’re not being deceived here.
If you weren’t awake enough for this game, Claude Giroux said “Well, wake up then,” because he scored only 11 seconds in. No matinee game laziness for this guy. This is what a good opening faceoff can get you.
That was Giroux’s 290th career goal, which ties him with Eric Lindros for eighth all-time in goals scored with the Flyers. Cam Atkinson said yesterday that it feels like the captain is always breaking a new record, so case in point.
Isaac Ratcliffe then got called for a tripping penalty at the 30-second mark, which could have easily killed the Flyers’ early lead, but thankfully it didn’t.
The Flyers started to get under the Capitals’ skin a little bit, with some early scrums before the first half of the period was even done, including one involving both van Riemsdyk brothers, because we’re in the city of brotherly love. Tensions continued to escalate until Tom Wilson laid a hit on Zack MacEwen that he didn’t like. Gloves were dropped and fighting majors were given out at 16:30 in the period. MacEwen also had an additional penalty for roughing, which gave the Capitals another power play.
Zack MacEwen and Tom Wilson, ding ding. pic.twitter.com/68C4cvci4d— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) February 26, 2022
Yet, it didn’t matter. The Capitals may have had two minutes with the man advantage, but as soon as the penalty ended, the Flyers broke out on a 3-on-1 and Atkinson scored on the rush. Though, because the Flyers can’t do anything normally, note that when Scott Laughton passed the puck, it actually bounced off of Conor Sheary before it got to Atkinson. It could have so easily become a turnover instead, but somehow, the Flyers survive a near mishap and get the goal. Glad to see the puck luck working in the Flyers’ favor for once.
Cam Atkinson with his team-leading 18th goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/OuhJrA1B2n— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) February 26, 2022
After the first, the shots on goal were 14-9, Flyers with the advantage. Despite having to kill off two penalties, the Flyers just overall had the jump in the start of this game. Maybe they all had stronger coffee this morning than any of the Capitals did, who knows.
After nothing but missed chances from both sides to start the period, Ratcliffe was shaken up after a hit in the corner in the Flyers’ own zone by Dmitry Orlov. It could have been a penalty, but it wasn’t. In possible frustration, Ratcliffe then earned a penalty in the opposite zone for interference against T.J. Oshie at 6:39 into the period. Look, I’m not one of the referees, I don’t pretend to understand their logic. I’m just here to tell you what happened. Oshie still took enough offense to the penalty against him, though, because he promptly showed the Flyers to not mess with him as he scored on the resulting power play at 6:53.
On the board with this Osh snipe pic.twitter.com/0VFk8ddyUI— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 26, 2022
With 10:51 left in the period, it looked like Joe Snively might have scored, but Carter Hart came up clutch and made the save. It didn’t help that the Flyers spent the entirety of play after the Capitals’ goal on their heels. It wouldn’t have been too surprising to watch the Flyers’ lead go up in smoke that quickly.
Nic Dowd earned a roughing penalty at 11:20, so the Flyers got their first power play of the game. Then there was interference called at 12:31 against Martin Fehervary as he sent Travis Konecny into the net, so for 49 seconds the Flyers had a 5-on-3 advantage. No, even a two-man advantage couldn’t help the Flyers’ power play woes. Look, if there is any team that could go the entire rest of the season without ever again getting a power play goal, it would be the Philadelphia Flyers. I think we just need to prepare ourselves for this possibility (if you haven’t already).
Ultimately, this was a worse period for the Flyers than the first one was. Shots on goal for this period were 11-4, Capitals advantage. Washington seemed to finally wake up and remember that there was a hockey game to be played. The Flyers still ended the period with the lead — a huge part in thanks to Hart’s goaltending — but the vibe check going into the third period was much more precarious.
Very early into the period Joel Farabee sent Wilson onto his butt, so that was fun.
lmao Tom Wilson has a full diaper and Joel Farabee is just like "whatever" pic.twitter.com/4juFzEHTt0— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) February 26, 2022
Throughout the start of this period, the Capitals continued to carry through their momentum from the third. Again, Hart was the primary reason the Flyers were holding onto their one-goal lead.
With about seven minutes left in the period, the Flyers finally had some momentum in terms of a one-man breakout from James van Riemsdyk, but his shot and the following rebound attempt from Derick Brassard just didn’t go anywhere.
At 2:02, Ilya Samsonov was pulled for the Capitals to bring out an extra attacker. Not long after, Atkinson missed the empty net from afar, and then when it looked like he was about to redeem himself and skate the puck to the net, the play was called dead because he batted the puck down from too high. With the way this period had gone, it really didn’t feel shocking that even trying to get an empty net goal would prove to be too challenging.
In the last minute of play, there were some heart attack inducing moments as Evgeny Kuznetsov nearly scored, but the play was blocked by Travis Sanheim, and Patrick Brown blocked an Alex Ovechkin shot — a brave feat for any player to do, and the Flyers knew it.
The Flyers mob Patrick Brown by the bench after he blocked Ovi's blast in the final seconds to secure the win! pic.twitter.com/6RWmVWRPA6— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) February 26, 2022
Somehow, miraculously, after spending the majority of this period hemmed into their own zone, the Flyers did not bend or break. They held onto that one-goal lead and won the game.
This wasn’t the Flyers’ best game by any means. The first period was good, but the final 40 minutes were rough to watch. Thankfully what the Flyers did in that first period was enough to secure victory. Of course, no team actually ever strings together a full 60 minutes of dominance. That’s really hard to do in this league. However, usually the key to victory involves dominating the play for longer stretches of time than your opponent. The Flyers were lucky to survive this with a win.
However, maybe it helps the Flyers win some more games moving forward. They’ve been playing better on the whole lately, but the victories weren’t coming. Now, they’ve played a game that wasn’t their best, but they won. That has to be good for the confidence of this team.
I was also impressed by Farabee’s play this game. After being out due to a shoulder injury, it was great to see him slot into that top line, get a secondary assist on Giroux’s goal, and at least generate some good opportunities — even if they didn’t go in, because some of them were on the power play, and the power play is cursed. It’s not always easy to bounce back from an extended injury absence, but Farabee continues to prove his value to this struggling Flyers team.
With all that said, the Edmonton Oilers come to Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 1 for a 7:00 p.m. ET puck drop. Can the Flyers figure out how to pull off two victories in a row against good teams? Guess we’ll find out together.