Flyers Stifle Capitals Comeback
At times, big leads prove to be more difficult to contain than one goal leads. On December 15, the Philadelphia Flyers lost a 4-1 lead en-route to a 5-4 shootout loss to these same scrappy Washington Capitals.
This time, almost blowing a 4-0 lead on home ice, the Flyers survived a difficult third period to overtake the Caps 6-4 on Wednesday night. It was the Flyers' seventh win in the last eight games, Sharks blowout aside.
Claude Giroux added two goals and an assist in a set of two dominating frames by the home team. He beat Alex Ovechkin on a turnover while deking to the backhand to beat starter Braden Holtby, and with help from teammate Scott Hartnell, he pounced on a Mike Green turnover for his second goal.
New Flyer acquisition Andrew MacDonald ended his night assisting on Jakub Voracek's first goal of the night, a power play goal.
A line brawl ensued after a Luke Schenn hit on Ryan Stoa in front of the Flyers' bench. Tom Wilson took exception to Schenn's hit, leading to every player grabbing a dance partner for some fisticuffs. Capitals defenseman Jon Erskine and Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier picked up game misconducts, and Wilson was assessed a ten-minute misconduct.
A ravenous crowd jumped on every mistake made by the Capitals after those fights. It looked all but locked up after Adam Hall tipped a Luke Schenn shot past Holtby to instill a four-goal lead. That sealed Holtby's fate, leading to Philipp Grubauer's entrance.
Then, a December relapse.
It started with an innocuous Joel Ward power play goal with six minutes remaining in the second period. Combined with Capitals coach Adam Oates' decision to pull Holtby, who was being verbally assaulted by Flyers fans, that goal set the tone for the Capitals, who were outshot 23-8 after two periods.
Shots flooded the Flyers zone early. In what seemed like an instant, Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer both scored to cut the Flyers' lead to one goal. Panic. With the players clearly reeling from constant Capitals pressure, they knew they needed insurance.
That came courtesy of Jakub Voracek, who took a pass from Hartnell to streak in and score what proved to be the game-winning goal. It, perhaps unfairly, put the game decision on Grubauer, who made 10 saves in relief.
As the adage goes, the shift after a goal is always important. Mark Streit took a hooking penalty on said next shift. Before they knew it two minutes later, Brooks Laich tipped a Mike Green shot past Steve Mason to cut that lead back to one again. Panic again.
Three of the Capitals' four goals on this night came courtesy of the power play.
Mason stopped 21 of 25 shots in the victory, having stopped 7 of 8 through two periods. For the Capitals, that dubious number proved to be one shot more than a franchise low after two periods.
It took a Steve Downie empty-netter to seal this game and pick up two points. The Flyers survived being outshot 17-7, and outscored 3-2, in the final frame.
Near collapses and comebacks notwithstanding, only the standings care. The Flyers swept the home-and-home, grabbing all four points, moving two points of the New York Rangers who had previously lost to Toronto on this night, and four points ahead of Washington.
In what team staff has deemed #clutchtime, they have come through in the clutch. That is, aside from what proved to be a laid egg against San Jose.