Giroux, Voracek carry Flyers to win over Capitals


Giroux, Voracek carry Flyers to win over Capitals


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.”

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie the game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.”

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”