Boucher snatches shootout win in Washington

By JAY BOEHMER
Senior Hockey Insider — jboehmer@highhopesblog.com
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Mike Richards celebrates his third period goal with Claude Giroux. The Flyers would go on to win in a shootout. (AP)

The top two teams in the East, two high-powered offenses backed by quick-moving, swarming defenses and dynamic rookie goaltenders. It’s a match made in heaven for this contest between the Conference-leading Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Throughout the night, penalties dictated the flow of play as each team’s offense took advantage of the power plays handed to them to get their puck play going. At even strength, each team was able to keep shots and chances at a minimum (and when they got through, Washington’s Neuvirth and Philly’s finally-started Brian Boucher turned the pucks away).

These two teams matched up well, which is why the game came down to such a tight contest.

While special teams defined the contest, it was the team that failed to capitalize on their power play chances that ultimately fell.

In the first period, a Chris Pronger turnover led to a Marcus Johansson goal to take a first period lead. It wasn’t until the second period that the Flyers countered, coming back with a pair of goals by Claude Giroux and Mike Richards, respectively.

It wasn’t until the third period when the Flyers’ penalties – especially back-to-back minors by two of their top shorthanded specialists, Kimmo Timonen and Mike Richards – caught up to them as the Caps jumped ahead with a trio of power play goals, with the last one coming in the final minute of play to tie the game at 4 goals apiece.

A Jeff Carter goal to start the third, and later an Andreal Nodl tally – his fifth of the season – kept the Flyers alive through Washington’s late game jump to keep the game going into overtime.

Despite a power play chance in the sudden death period, the Flyers were unable to capitalize and the game entered into a shootout. Brian Boucher, who played well throughout, kept out all three Capitals chances in the shootout, while Danny Briere put home the lone goal to carry the Flyers to victory.

Giving the Capitals an overtime point, the Flyers remain two points back in this Conference race that will likely keep the rest of the East at bay for a good portion of the season, with these two heavyweights competing for every point that comes their way.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Brian Boucher: Boucher earned his first win since October 23rd after going nearly a month without a start. A huge win for him, proving to his coach – who has stuck with Bobrovsky night in and night out for weeks – that he can lead his team to victory just the same. This may mean more starts and more confidence for the mature veteran, whose spot may be in jeopardy when a healthy Michael Leighton returns to the lineup.

Andreas Nodl: With only a single goal to his name coming into this season, Andreas Nodl surely wasn’t figured into the Flyers’ offensive scoring depth. But with 5 goals in 12 games played this season, he’s on pace for some major career number improvement, working well on the Flyers’ top line alongside Mike Richards and Nikolay Zherdev, likely two of the most talented players he’s teamed up with in his short career. More goals means more confidence, and with more confidence, some of that scoring touch he showed through his early, pre-NHL years may start to shine through, as we’re already starting to see.

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