The Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday began the longest homestand — eight games — since the franchise started in 1967-68.
If Thursday’s matchup is any indication, it’s going to be an entertaining three weeks.
Entertaining … and exasperating.
The Flyers, despite having 10 injured players, had a territorial edge for most of the game and got two goals from Gerry Mayhew, of all people.
They appeared on their way to a stunning victory over Alex Ovechkin and friends.
Didn’t happen. Somehow,
Washington Capitals 5, Philadelphia Flyers 3.
For the second straight game, the Flyers found another way to turn a win into a loss.
Mayhew’s second goal of game gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead with 3:51 left; he knocked in a pass from Travis Sanheim, who created the play by streaking down ice and weaving around a defender.
Just over a minute later, however, Garnet Hathaway scored on a deflection off his body to knot the score at 3-3 with 2:57 to go. And after a fatal turnover by Ivan Provorov (minus-3) behind the net, Hathaway scored from out front to put the Caps ahead, 4-3, with 1:12 remaining.
An empty-net goal by John Carlson made it 5-3 with 48.8 seconds left. That gave the Caps three goals in 2:08.
“To play 57 minutes the way that we did, and you leave the game feeling that way, it’s pretty tough,” said interim coach Mike Yeo, whose team blew a late 4-2 lead in Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime loss in Pittsburgh. “… I think we’re learning that we can have confidence playing our game. Now we have to learn that we have to have confidence finishing the game. We have to learn how to win.”
“We’ve got to find a way to close it out,” center Scott Laughton said.
The Flyers suffered their fourth straight loss; they have dropped 17 of their last 19. Seven of the eight games on this homestand are against teams that appear playoff-bound. Six of the games are against elite teams.
“We’re working hard. We’re doing all the video,” right winger Travis Konecny said. “We’re doing everything we’re supposed to be doing and what other teams are doing; it’s just those one, two bounces that don’t go in our favor. It is the way the NHL is. It’s a game of inches and seconds. You look back on that game and you see a loss, but, I mean, we played a good game. We worked hard. Everyone was buying in. There’s something (positive) to take from it.”
Added Konecny: “It’s obviously hard to process right now. Everyone is really frustrated. We have to regroup, get to the rink, and work hard again.”
The Flyers had a chance to snap a 2-2 tie with about 12 minutes left in regulation as they had a five-on-three power play for 1:39. But Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov made four stops and kept the game tied.
A short time later, the Flyers (15-25-9) killed a penalty with Laughton in the box.
In the second period, with chaos in front of the net, Joe Snively scored on a power-play rebound to give the Caps (28-15-9) a 2-1 lead with 7:11 to go in the stanza. Snively has four goals in his last four games.
Sanheim (two points, six shot attempts) scored the equalizer with 58.4 seconds left in the second, joining the rush and finishing off a two-on-one feed from Konecny.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 18, 2022
Earlier in the second, Mayhew, who missed the previous game because of an injury around his left eye, tied the game at 1-1 on a power-play goal.
Finishing a slick tic-tac-toe passing play with Oskar Lindblom and Isaac Ratclifffe, Mayhew scored from deep inside the left circle. It was just the Flyers’ second power-play goal in their last eight games; they had been in a 1 for 20 funk.
The Flyers got a power play after a fight between Laughton and the Caps’ Trevor van Riemsdyk, whose brother, James, plays for Philly.
Mayhew tripped over goalie Thomas Griess’ stick and went hard into the boards Saturday in Detroit, then missed Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh because he couldn’t open his swollen eye all the way. He had 12 stitches administered.
“You look up and the boards are there, and the next thing you know, you’re bleeding,” Mayhew, 29, said after Thursday’s morning skate.
A former MVP in the AHL, Mayhew now has four goals in his last six games. He has played with grit and shown speed, which is why he saw lots of time on the top line Thursday with Claude Giroux and Cam Atkinson. Lindblom dropped down to Mayhew’s third-line spot for most of the game.
Mayhew had the first two-goal game of his NHL career, but that was overshadowed by another late Flyers collapse.
“It’s tough. We have to find a way, somehow, to win those games,” he said. “We just have to keep pushing. … We have to find a way to stay positive.”
Scouts from NJ, Ottawa, Calgary, Arizona, STL, Tampa Bay, LA, and Winnipeg at #Flyers' game tonight at WFC.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 17, 2022
Caps coach Peter Laviolette moved into ninth in the all-time NHL win list with the victory. … Giroux won 19 of 21 faceoffs. … The Flyers outshot the Caps, 33-25. … Martin Jones suffered his sixth straight loss (0-5-1) since a 3-2 OT win in Seattle on Dec. 29. … Rasmus Ristolainen and Patrick Brown could return to the lineup in the Flyers’ next game, Monday against Carolina, Yeo said. … Yeo saluted Laughton, who has been elevated to the second-line center spot because of injuries, for his play and his leadership, calling him one of the team’s most vocal players on the bench. … Yeo said he didn’t want to get overly optimistic about center Derick Brassard skating Thursday morning. The reason: Three times he has been re-injured in his first game after returning from a hip injury. At this point, doesn’t it make more sense to give Brassard a rehab stint with the AHL’s Phantoms to make sure he is ready to return to the Flyers?