It should not have become a nail-biter.
Not with a 4-0 lead and everything going so well and the Flyers having played two of their best opening 40 minutes all season, allowing just eight shots.
But it happened.
Luckily, their top line bailed them out and Steve Downie gave them a much-needed empt-netter to secure the Flyers’ wild 6-4 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
“They didn’t play the way they wanted the first two periods and we were and that third period they became aggressive and sat back a bit,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux.
“When we get a lead like that, we’ve got to keep it. The first two periods we were playing well and winning battles and we got away from it. We need to play 60 minutes.”
His line with Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek did yeoman’s work in the win with six points. Voracek and Giroux each had two goals.
Voracek’s second marker (18th overall), late in the game, gave the Flyers a 5-3 lead that would shrink again before Downie decided it with his empty-netter.
“They’re attacking and skating with speed,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube. “Making plays and working hard down low. Cycling the puck and competing. Power play, doing a good job.”
The victory kept the Flyers in second place in the Metro Division with 72 points -- two more than the third-place Rangers while dropping the Caps four points behind the pace.
Thing is, the Flyers made it look so easy, enjoying a 4-0 lead, chasing starting goalie Braden Holtby and even having an ‘ol fashioned brawl to get them going (see story).
So much early emotion may have distracted the Flyers from finishing the task as the Caps whittled down a 4-1 deficit in the third period thanks to the usual suspects -- bad penalties.
Did we mention the Flyers' usually adroit penalty-kill units gave up three power-play goals, as well?
“Penalties and a couple goofy goals,” Berube said. “Penalties. I haven’t looked at them yet or am sure if they were warranted, but it definitely gave them life.”
And nearly ruined all the good work early.
“It was good hockey. We were intense, we were quick, we were on things,” Berube said. “We had everybody going.”
Flyers goalie Steve Mason picked up his 26th victory but he looked like he was fighting the puck a bit in the third period when the Caps scored three goals.
“The first two periods we played some of the best hockey all season long,” Mason said. “Going into the third period, we stopped moving our feet, stopped playing the way we had been playing.
“They have offensive talent on that team and they can take advantage of sloppy play. That’s exactly what happened. We’re fortunate to come out of it with two points.”
The PK units had gone 6 for 6 against the Caps in the previous game but gave up three power-play goals in four chances on Wednesday.
“Couple bad breaks and any time you have [Alex] Ovechkin on the ice and try to focus on him, he can shoot the puck as well as anybody in the league,” Mason said. “They took advantage of it.”
Still, the Flyers survived, thanks to Giroux (two goals, 23 overall) and Voracek.
He and Voracek scored a combined seven goals against the Caps in this now completed home-and-home series, which includes Sunday’s 5-4 Flyers' overtime win in D.C.
This was the fifth time Giroux has had three or more points in a game. Over his last 11 games, he has nine goals and nine assists for 18 points.
“When they are going, everybody follows,” Mason said of the top line. “We have to have that on a consistent basis moving forward because every game is so important.”