The Flyers didn’t lack energy when they finally settled themselves back in at home after spending all but one of the last 28 days on the road. For 48 minutes they battled and, on the scoreboard, dominated a very good Washington Capitals team.
However, hockey games are 60 minutes and for the final 12, things looked a little less certain.
A sold-out Wells Fargo Center played host to the Southeastern division-leading Capitals who came into town looking to put themselves just a little closer to the Flyers, who sit atop the league standings.
Unfortunately for Washington, things didn’t work out as planned. Feeding off a mixture of anticipation and excitement from the crowd, the Flyers came out shooting.
Jeff Carter started things off early, wrapping around behind the Capitals net and putting one past goaltender Michael Nuevirth. Carter, who’s been hot of late, extended his goal-streak to four consecutive games.
The 26-year-old center has drawn a fair share of criticism for what many have called a quiet season, since signing a multi-year deal back in November, but Carter certainly seems to be coming to life, eclipsing his previous high three-game goal streak he put up in late December. Tonight’s goal marked his 20th of the year, which puts him second on the Flyers to only Danny Briere (24) in that category.
Jody Shelley continued to swing the momentum in the Flyers direction when he squared off with DJ King just over a minute later. Shelley’s penalty turned out to be the only one for the orange and black. The Flyers did not allow the Capitals to have a power play in the game. It’s the first time they’ve gone an entire game without giving up a power play since March 16, 2010 at Nashville.
In the second period the Flyers tacked onto their lead when All-Star forward Claude Giroux scored off a centering pass from Carter, beating goaltender Semyon Varlamov who replaced Nuevrith who left following the first period due to what his coach is calling a lower-body injury that will make him day-to-day.
“It was a small cycle and I yelled to Carts and he was able to pass to me. I got a quick shot and was able to get the rebound,” Giroux recalled.
The trouble came for the Flyers about eight minutes into the third period when former Flyer Mike Knuble put the Caps within one, beating goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky who had been playing very well, behind another impressive defensive performance.
Exactly 40 seconds later, Alexander Ovechkin tied things up, slapping one past Bobrovsky from just outside the crease with traffic in front.
Momentum swung and the building fell silent. Capitals fans began to see deja vu — the team scored three times in the third period to come back and beat Ottowa Sunday. But the Flyers players didn’t quit. Bobrovsky rebounded and the Flyers managed to stop the bleeding and move on to OT.
Head coach Peter Laviolette attributes that to resilience, something that’s been one of the Flyers key traits the past two years.
“I don’t think we were as sharp as we were [in the first part of the game] and if you give a good team like that an inch they take it two miles,” Laviolette explained. “I thought our guys, once it got tied up, continued to press.”
With momentum evening itself back out, the Flyers gave Caps fans another dose of deja vu. However this time it wasn’t as pleasing. Just over a minute into the overtime Andrej Meszaros started out the OT the same way Jeff Carter began the game — with a big goal in the second minute.
Meszaros threw a shot on net from just inside the blue line. And as the old cliche goes, if you put it on net, you never know what might just happen.
“I was just trying to hit the net because their guy was kind of on me and he was going at me,” Meszaros said. “I was trying not to hit him because that would be a breakaway for them.”
What Mesz may not have realized is that his goal is yet another milestone in what has been a record-breaking first half of hockey. With the OT win, the Flyers reached 30 wins in their 46th game of the season, the fastest they’ve done that since the 1986-87 campaign.
Laviolette says that the goal shows the team’s character, something they established last year and built on this season with new acquisitions such as Meszaros and Shelley.
“I thought we played a great game,” Laviolette said. “Mesz had a great shot and got us a big second point there.”
Home at the Hotel
A Flyers team that has seen very little of their own beds found themselves in yet another hotel Tuesday. Only this time, the hotel was just minutes from home.
Laviolette asked his players to board a bus following Tuesday morning’s skate and check in at a city hotel where they spent the afternoon and ate as a team before reboarding and heading back to the Wells Fargo Center for their game.
“We did it a few times when the chips were down last year and we had to win hockey games and we came off a long road trip and both times we had success doing it,” Laviolette said. “I don’t know the rationale or reasoning behind it, but there is something to the fact that when you come off of road trips and you get home and get settled in, you play a flat game.”
Though captain Mike Richards hates doing it, he agrees that it has a positive effect.
“With people that have families and kids at home, it’s good to just focus on the game and not have distractions after being on the road for a while,” Richards explained.
“Maybe to keep guys away from home from the honey-do list that might be growing and getting longer,” Laviolette added.
This is the third time since Laviolette took over that he has asked the team to stay away from home. The Flyers are 3-0 when they’ve done it.
“Hopefully that continues if we have to do it again,” Richards said. “Hopefully [we don’t] though.”