The Flyers and Capitals racked up 114 penalty minutes in a third-period line brawl. (USA Today Images)
Down by a touchdown with less than 15 minutes in the game, the home team often finds itself playing with a physical edge if it wants to stay alive.
It’s something normally seen in a football game, but not so much in hockey.
The Flyers on Friday found themselves in that situation against the Capitals (see story). Joel Ward scored a hat-trick goal to put Washington up 7-0. After the faceoff, Wayne Simmonds hit Steve Oleksy and Tom Wilson. Wilson, taking exception, dropped the gloves and fought Simmonds.
As Simmonds and Wilson fought, Ray Emery skated the length of the ice in pursuit of an unwilling Braden Holtby.
"He didn’t want to fight," Emery said. "And I said, basically, ‘Protect yourself.’ He didn’t really have much of a choice."
While Holtby and Emery tangled, Brayden Schenn took on Alexander Urbom, and Vincent Lecavalier fought Oleksy. Lecavalier suffered facial injuries in his fight, and subsequently won’t be in the lineup Saturday against New Jersey.
Reasoning for this line brawl boiled down to a simple factor -- frustration.
“As a group, I think it’s a frustrating night,” Emery said. “Frustration shows sometimes that way. We all grew up playing hockey, and sometimes that happens -- you don’t want anyone to get hurt, but we don’t take losses like that.”
In addition to the fighting majors, a variety of other penalties were assessed in the brawl. Emery was assessed two minor penalties for leaving his crease and an instigator -- both served by Claude Giroux -- as well as a game misconduct. Game misconducts were also issued to Schenn, Lecavalier, Urbom and Oleksy for secondary fighting. Aaron Volpatti also picked up a 10-minute misconduct.
In all, the brawl resulted in a total of 114 penalty minutes -- 64 from the Flyers, 50 from the Capitals. The brawl alone doubled this season’s high in penalty minutes in a game for the Flyers -- the previous high being 32, set in the Oct. 5 loss to Montreal.
“It’s a hockey fight,” Giroux said. “It’s going to happen. It’s part of the game. Obviously, we were flat. It’s not the first time that’s happened during a hockey game.”
The Flyers look to rebound from Friday’s frustration Saturday when they travel to Newark, N.J. to take on the Devils. While bouncing back from a 7-0 loss is easier said than done, coach Craig Berube offered a simple solution.
“We go play a game tomorrow,” Berube said. “Pick yourself up and go play. That’s it.”
Downie’s short stay
Steve Downie didn’t even last two periods as a Flyer before he left the game, but he left the Wells Fargo Center in apparently very dramatic fashion.
According to Holmgren, Downie was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania “for further tests and observation,” but according to reports, he left about half an hour after the game ended on a stretcher in an ambulance.
The Flyers declined to provide any other information.
Never mind all the debate about whether fighting belongs in hockey -- the Flyers’ general manager was OK with what occurred on the ice Friday.
Perhaps that’s putting it a bit lightly, but all things considered, Holmgren seemed at least satisfied that his team responded in some way to what transpired.
“When you get slapped around like that, it’s a response,” Holmgren said. “Do I have an issue with it? Probably not. It’s a response from an embarrassed hockey team.”
While Steve Mason did, in fact, look human in Friday’s loss, it wasn’t exactly his fault that he was pulled in the second period -- and not just because his teammates provided no support.
Berube made the decision after Mason allowed his third goal on eight shots. But his real hope was that he would send a message to the Flyers that would help redirect the course of the game.
“Just trying to get a response from our team,” Berube said.
The 99 penalty minutes the Flyers took was the highest single-game total since March 5, 2004 against Ottawa -- the franchise record of 213.
Friday's total of 99 is the seventh-highest single-game total in Flyers history.
Last time ...
The Flyers were last shut out while allowing seven goals March 6, 2011, a 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Friday was just the ninth time in franchise history the Flyers have been shut out after allowing seven or more goals.