Sunday, December 15, 2013

Flyers suffer late collapse in loss at Washington

Washington, DC -- Making history is not the way you want to go down in the opener of a key division home-and-home series.

But it happened on Sunday afternoon.

Nicklas Backstrom picked up the shootout winner,  capping  a rally  from a three-goal,  third-period deficit which sent Washington  past  Philadelphia, 5-4, in a Sunday contest from Verizon Center.

Each  team had  registered a  score  when Backstrom  beat Steve  Mason with  a forceful  forehander  to begin the  third and  final round. Sean Couturier was denied by Philipp Grubauer and the hosts gained the valuable extra point.

“It was unbelievable. Thanks to the guys…it was a good win, a good comeback," said Grubauer, who has begun to carve out a spot in the NHL after splitting last year between the ECHL champion Reading Royals and Hershey in the AHL. "We have a great offense. We can score, so every time you need a goal, it seems like we can put the puck in the net, which is good for us.” 

Only once before since the Eric Lindros era had the Flyers led by as many as three goals midway through regulation and failed to pick up two points. On December 26, 1992, the Orange and Black blew a 4-0 lead, fell behind 5-4 and rallied to tie on Lindros' penalty-shot in the final seconds.

Still, this one hurt and it was the first time in franchise history that Philly was up by three scores with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period at Washington and didn't at least tie.

“I’m not sure that we relaxed. I thought that we were in our end too much there at the end instead of making some plays and getting down in their end a little bit and killing time and getting some offensive chances,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube, who lost his first crack at Washington in a 7-0 embarrassment on Nov. 1.

Mike  Green, Dmitry Orlov  and Alex Ovechkin tallied in a span of 7:52 late in regulation  to  wipe out a 4-1  margin for the  Capitals, who have won four of five.

Grubauer stopped 24 shots for Sunday's victors, who moved to 12-3-0 this season when scoring first and who also specialize in late-game comebacks.

The unexpected setback overshadowed the performance of Michael  Raffl as he posted a career-best three assists for the Flyers, who host the Caps  on  Tuesday having dropped  five of  their last seven. Couturier, Claude Giroux,  Mark  Streit and  Jakub Voracek  also lit the  lamp, while Mason made 29 saves.

The  Capitals produced  the game's first goal on their second power play, when Ovechkin  elected  to pass rather  than blast away from  his usual spot in the left circle and the pass was tipped in by Marcus Johansson at 11:17.

Giroux  evened the score  inside of a minute left in the first, taking Raffl's pass and one-timing it home from the right circle.

Raffl  picked up an  errant Washington pass in the neutral zone and fed Streit for a successful shot off the rush from the left wing at 7:37 of the second to put Philly ahead.

Couturier victimized Grubauer on a shot from a severe angle to the left of the Caps'  net, giving the visitors a 3-1 edge at 2:18 of the third period. It was a  three-goal  spread 74 seconds  later when  Voracek redirected a Raffl blast from atop the crease.

The Caps awoke from their slumber to force overtime.

Green got one back for the hosts with 8:40 remaining on a rising shot from the right  point, then  Orlov's floater from the point after a left-circle faceoff win brought the Caps within one as 3:31 showed on the clock.

“He’s playing with confidence…He’s good, maybe he’s going to be in future Olympics,” Ovechkin said of his compatriot.

Washington  skated 6-on-5 when Ovechkin's low, blistering drive from below the circles zipped by Mason with 47.9 seconds to go.

The  luck continued  to go the Capitals'  way. On the first shootout try, Eric Fehr  shot and  Mason appeared to make  the save, but the puck trickled inches over  the goal line  before being swept out. Giroux scored in the second round to keep Philly alive.

Notes: Ovechkin  passed Mike Gartner (397) for second on the Capitals' all-time goal-scoring list. Peter Bondra (472) ranks first ... Washington improved to 8-3 in shootouts and leads the NHL with 10 wins beyond regulation, while Philadelphia fell  to 1-3  in  the game-deciding  breakaway competition  ...  Streit's tally gave him 300 career points ... Prior to  the contest,  the  Caps recalled forward Michael  Latta from Hershey of the AHL -- since  Mikhail Grabovski  was a  late  scratch with  the flu  -- and  assigned defenseman Nate Schmidt to Hershey.
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