The Philadelphia Flyers had three players return Saturday afternoon from injuries or ailments — goalie Carter Hart (eye infection), left winger Joel Farabee (shoulder) and center Derick Brassard (hip) — and they showed they were missed.
All contributed, especially Hart, as the Flyers ended a six-game losing streak with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center.
No longer do the Flyers have to worry about becoming the first team since 1997-98 to have three double-digit winless streaks in the same season. (Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Tamps Bay did it that season.)
Hart made 27 saves as he registered his first win since Feb. 1, Farabee contributed an assist in 20-plus minutes, and Brassard was plus-1 and won seven of 11 faceoffs.
Cam Atkinson (two points) and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers, who won for the third time in their last 22 games.
“The guys competed extremely hard; the emotion was there, and obviously the physicality was there,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “Obviously, we had a great start, and now getting a win, maybe we can start to build some confidence.”
Alex Ovechkin, a Flyers-killer throughout his career, was held point-less for the third straight time against Philadelphia this season. Ovechkin took six shots but had only two on goal, and was minus-2.
Here are some observations:
This game is easier if you get off to a good start
The Flyers dominated the first period, and you haven’t heard that said too many times this season.
They led at the end of the first period for the second time in their last 21 games, and they scored first for only the second time in the last eight contests.
Goals by Giroux and Atkinson gave them a 2-0 lead, the first time they led after the opening stanza in February.
“We chased the game,” Caps coach Peter Laviolette said.
Atkinson’s team-leading 18th goal finished a two-on-one with Scott Laughton; the sequence started after a jarring hit down the other end by Rasmus Ristolainen, who then made a great outlet pass to trigger the odd-man rush.
Giroux’s goal was the fastest by a Flyer since Tim Kerr scored eight seconds into a game in 1989.
The Captain catches the Caps early.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) February 26, 2022
Claude Giroux joined pretty good company.
“Cam did a nice pass, and if he tells you he saw me, that’s a lie,” Giroux cracked.
Giroux, who is a walking trade rumor, scored his 290th goal in his 992nd game with the Philadelphia Flyers; Lindros scored 290 in 486 games with the Orange and Black. Both, of course, have totally different styles. Giroux does it with finesse, while Lindros was the ultimate power forward.
Lindros is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Giroux has a chance to one day be enshrined.
Second-period blues won’t go away.
For whatever reason, the Flyers have stumbled mightily in the second period this season, and that trend continued Saturday.
The momentum of their strong first period was halted as the Caps badly outplayed the Flyers in the second stanza. Washington got to within 2-1 on T.J. Oshie’s power-play goal, and it outshot the Flyers, 11-4, in the second.
“We defended hard; we just defended too much,” Yeo said of the second and third periods, when the Flyers were outshot by a combined 19-8 margin.
In the second, the Flyers weren’t even able to get a shot during a five-on-three power play that lasted 49 seconds.
The Flyers’ bright spot in the second period: Hart lost his stick but made a sensational glove save to rob Joe Snively on his point-blank backhander with about 11 minutes left.
For the season, the Flyers have been outscored, 58-40, in the second period.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 26, 2022
Rasmus Ristolainen is making potential trade suitors take notice
The big defenseman continued his strong play as he delivered eight hits and set up the Flyers’ second goal.
“He brings me and a lot of the boys into the fight by the way he plays,” Atkinson said.
Ristolainen said he enjoys facing a physical team like Washington, “and I think that’s how the game should be played,” he said.
Philly is trying to re-sign Risto, a potential UFA, but hasn’t been able to get a deal done so far.
Getting Farabee and Brassard in the lineup gave the Flyers better matchups.
Farabee was on the top line, while Brassard centered the third unit.
“It made us a bit of a deeper lineup,” Yeo said. “The commitment was there from the drop of the puck. Again, I think we can be better. We don’t want to be a team that defends all night when we’re playing with the lead. We want to stay on the attack and extend the lead. But I think the effort was very evident tonight.”
Patrick Brown was lauded for a key blocked shot late in the game to deny a Capitals scoring chance. … The Caps had a 28-22 shots edge and a 30-21 advantage in hits. … Ivan Provorov, Atkinson, and Justin Braun were plus-2. … Zack MacEwen stood toe to toe with Caps tough guy Tom Wilson (five hits) in a first-period fight. … “We’re starting to create a little bit of an identity with that,” Yeo said of the Flyers’ physical play. … Reggie Leach (306 goals) is seventh on the Flyers’ all-time list. … The Flyers host Connor McDavid and Edmonton on Tuesday.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 26, 2022