Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Flyers take advantage of bad situation, down Caps to end home-and-home series

Thanks to RMNB
by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Matt Read's even-strength tally kicked off a run of three straight goals to end the second period and four unanswered overall, leading the Flyers to a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals to earn a split in the final game of the home-and-home set Tuesday night.

"That was one of the funnest periods of the year," said Read, who chalked up his team-leading 10th goal. "The guys talked about not letting that (coughing up Sunday's 4-1 lead) happen again. We were amped up."


Mark Streit and Jakub Voracek also lit the lamp on a key five-minute power play in the middle frame, with Wayne Simmonds adding a goal and Kimmo Timonen chipping in a pair of assists.

Steve Mason did his part, making 24 saves as the Orange and Black came away with three points in this two-game set against a club ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division. 

Alex Ovechkin and Eric Fehr provided offense for the Capitals, who were caught flat in Philadelphia's four-goal second act.

Braden Holtby, who posted a 7-0 shutout and received a beating here on Nov. 1 in the teams' first meeting, was shelled for all five scores on 35 shots.

Even tied at 2-2, things looked to be going in Washington's favor until Tom Wilson unleashed a vicious check on a vulnerable Brayden Schenn along the end boards behind Mason with 4:43 remaining in the second. You could make a case for the young man turning his back to the hit, but Wilson was banished with a major for charging and a game misconduct once the post-hit scrum was cleared and the league will certainly review the play.

"On that play, there wasn't much respect. I saw the hit and the replay. He came from a pretty far way away and at top speed. Everything happens fast, but when you see a guy in a vulnerable position, you have to let up a little," said Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn. "When it's your brother it's pretty hard. I was rattled. Helpless is exactly the way I felt."

The Flyers went in for the kill, picking up a pair of goals to take a 4-2 edge to intermission.

First, it was Streit, who tested the patience of the faithful by playing catch at the point with Claude Giroux until cranking a hard, arcing shot from the right point through a screen and off the far pipe to give the Flyers the lead with 2:56 showing.

Then, Voracek snuck into space between the circles, took a back pass from Timonen and slid a seeing-eye shot past Holtby for a two-goal margin at 18:16. It did little to dampen the spirits of the Capitals' braintrust.

"I thought it was a clean hit. I watched it live. I don't think it's a penalty at all. It's a game-changing call…they call it the way they think they see it. I'm also mad they didn't get an instigator after that," said Washington head coach Adam Oates.

His GM, George McPhee, took things one step further, saying that it was "a great hit."

These teams don't see each other until March 2 down in DC.

Schenn was later deemed out for the contest with the ambiguous "upper-body injury," while Flyers head coach Berube later revealed he saw the young forward before he was taken away for evaluation and said he looked OK.

Simmonds then made it 5-2 with 7:29 elapsed in the third period, bringing Holtby to his rear end in the crease before stuffing home a shot from the right post. One shift earlier, the Caps netminder stopped chances in front from Michael Raffl and Giroux, both of whom could have hit the net if not for hesitation to shoot.

At the outset, both teams adopted a conservative approach, no doubt unwilling to engage in the kinds of momentum swings which defined Sunday's 5-4 Capitals shootout win which saw the hosts score first, get down 4-1 in the third period then rally to force overtime.

The deliberate pace called to mind the grinding nature of old-school Patrick Division hockey between these franchises, where space was precious and fought for in all three zones. 

Scott Hartnell had the best Flyers chance of a 10-shot opening period, sprung by a Luke Schenn pass through a seam up the middle on a breakaway -- but his shot was muted by the time it got to Holtby.

Mason was only tested twice as the Caps flung nine shots on net, his best save a long pad stop on Mike Green followed by a Nicklas Backstrom rebound in front.

That lack of action might have contributed to his misplay of a loose puck atop his crease during a Washington carry-over power play, with Ovechkin taking advantage on a backhander from a sharp angle on the left side with 40 seconds elapsed in the second period. The Russian captain posted his 399th career score, and if he hits 400 in the next game, he'll surpass countryman Pavel Bure for sixth-fastest all time.

It was tied 58 seconds later, when Voracek took a Braydon Coburn feed in the neutral zone and pumped a shot home from the right circle off a 2-on-1 rush.

"I even surprised myself," quipped the ginger Czech, referencing his normal desire to pass in those situations. 

The Capitals went back on top just after the 5 1/2 minute mark. Troy Brouwer chased a Martin Erat dump-in along the right-wing side untouched, and Fehr jumped into a seam on that side of the ice, took a pass from the rushing forward and beat Mason top corner to the far side.

Read pulled the hosts even with 8:54 on the second-period clock, as the puck found him during a goalmouth scramble to the left of Holtby for a successful low shot. Steve Downie did much of the work, tying up his Caps defender to allow his linemate a chance.

Notes: The Sunday-Tuesday set was the first home-and-home series between the Flyers and Capitals since Mar. 7-8, 1985, which the Flyers swept (9-6 and 4-2) en route to the division title ... Tuesday's victory meant Philly hasn't lost a home-and-home to Washington since Mar. 25-27, 1982 (4-3 loss and 4-4 tie) ... Voracek posted his second multi-goal effort of the season and first since netting a pair at Ottawa on Nov. 12 ... Mason has surrendered three goals or fewer in three of his last four appearances since giving up four each in losses to Dallas and Ottawa on Dec. 7-9 ... Capitals forward Mikhail Grabovski missed his second straight game with the flu which caused him to be a late scratch on Sunday ... The Capitals recalled forward Casey Wellman from Hershey of the AHL ... Chris VandeVelde, signed to a one-year deal earlier in the week, recorded his first point as a Flyer with a secondary assist on Streit's power-play marker ... The hosts have won seven in a row on home ice since a Nov. 9 victory over Edmonton.
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