Hall: 'Every game this time of year is huge'
Vinny Lecavalier (left) celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime with Kimmo Timonen that gave the Flyers a 5-4 win over the Capitals on Sunday. (AP)
WASHINGTON – Yet again, the Flyers got to play the part of the comeback kids.
For the 11th time this season, they fought back from a third-period deficit to steal two points Sunday afternoon. They did so by defeating the Washington Capitals, 5-4, in overtime (see Instant Replay).
This time, though, the stakes were as high as they’ve ever been. With a loss, the Flyers would have slipped from third place into fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, allowing the Capitals to overtake them. They would have been in playoff contention only as a wild-card.
Instead, they propelled themselves into second place, ahead of the Capitals and New York Rangers (temporarily, at least – the Rangers play Sunday night). The victory marked the seventh time this season the Flyers have won when trailing after two periods.
“We’ve been in a lot of games we’ve had to come back in this year,” Adam Hall said. “There can be no doubt: We know we have the character in this locker room to come back in games. Obviously, we want to get that consistency where we don’t have to do that all the time, but it’s great to see guys rally around each other and have the confidence in each other to get it done.”
It was an unlikely candidate, Vinny Lecavalier, who scored the game-winner with 2:15 left to play in overtime. Lecavalier has made no secrets of his struggles to adjust to the left wing, but on Sunday, he was able to contribute in a big way.
The goal was his 900th career point.
“Everybody knew how big this game was, the stakes,” Lecavalier said. “It was just a high-intensity kind of playoff game like [Saturday’s win] against the Rangers.”
The thing is, the Flyers didn’t start out as if the game were as important as the playoffs. They were slow to generate chemistry at the Verizon Center, and sloppy as well. They took unnecessary penalties and were back on their heels for the first 20 minutes.
After the first period, the Flyers trailed 2-1 on the scoreboard and 17-6 in shots. Dmitry Orlov and Marcus Johansson had scored for the Caps, while Claude Giroux netted the Flyers’ only marker – one that the refs, at first, waved off.
As happy as coach Craig Berube was with yet another comeback, he also put the victory into context.
“It means we’ve got to play the first and second better, right?” he said. “First period wasn’t good. I thought that we were good after that. I liked the second period. I liked the third, obviously.”
Hall tied the game in the second period with a shorthanded goal, but the Capitals added two markers of their own from Orlov and Jay Beagle that kept their lead in place after 40 minutes.
It was the third period in which the Flyers truly took over. They scored two unanswered goals, a power-play goal from Jakub Voracek and a critical marker with 1:05 left to play in regulation from Giroux that sent the game into overtime. They capitalized on opportunities and put traffic in front of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
The final six minutes of the game were some of their best of the season.
“Being down by two going into the third was obviously tough, going against such a good team,” Mark Streit said. “But we never gave up, we battled back, and we won the game. Not everything was perfect today. We have to improve in a few areas, but overall, pretty happy about the big win tonight.”
Streit noted that the Flyers certainly have areas of concern that must be addressed. They gave up too many odd-man rushes, he said, and they took far too many foolish penalties (they incurred eight). Too many Caps were allowed to crowd goalie Steve Mason.
But the fact still stands that the Flyers were able to eke out a victory when it was needed most. The importance of the game – and the weekend as a whole – was not lost on them.
And even when plenty of fans in the stands had given up on them, the Flyers never did.
“These games are four-point games,” Giroux said. “It’s us and them. Obviously there’s a couple more teams just behind us, but we’re kind of fighting for that playoff spot. For us to bring that extra point, it’s obviously huge.”