WASHINGTON — It may have taken eight straight unsuccessful overtime periods, but Dave Hakstol has finally found a deadly combination.
For the second time this week, the trio of Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov scored on the opening shift of OT, as the Flyers beat the Washington Capitals, 2-1, at Capital One Arena Sunday, while also earning their third straight win (see observations).
Konecny knifed his way through a defender along the wall before cutting to the middle and beating Caps goaltender Braden Holtby with a snap shot from between the circles. Just three days ago, it was Couturier who connected 18 seconds into overtime of Thursday’s 3-2 victory against the Maple Leafs.
“We got a good opportunity and we capitalized on it," Couturier said. “It’s all about starting with the puck and trying to control it. We did a good job of hanging onto it.”
“We’re just finding ways to win hockey games,” Konecny said. “They’re tough games to win when you’re playing against good teams. We’re just keeping things simple and trusting our abilities. I know that those two are on the defensive side of things, and Coots makes sure I know that every time by giving me a heads up to stay below my guy in the defensive zone. It just seems to be clicking right now.”
The offensive-minded Konecny has now scored goals in back-to-back games for just the second time in his career with the previous occasion coming in November 2016 of his rookie season.
The victory was also the Flyers' seventh in their last eight games, which propelled them back into a playoff spot for the first time since Nov. 11, a day that coincided with the start of the team’s 10-game winless streak. Currently, the Flyers occupy the first wild-card position and are just a point behind Columbus for one of three automatic berths in the Metropolitan Division (see standings).
“It’s about finding the way to get the win and I think earlier in the season that was one of the issues is that we didn’t find a way,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We were playing good hockey, but we didn’t find ways. Now, we’re finding ways and we can’t stop here.”
“It’s big and I think if we keep going on the same track, we’ll keep plugging away at teams above us,” said goaltender Brian Elliott, who made 27 saves on 28 shots. “We've got to keep our heads looking forward and not behind us. We can be our best and our worst enemy.”
Right now, the Flyers have the luxury of relying on two steady goaltenders. Michal Neuvirth has won his last three starts, allowing just four goals, and Elliott looked refreshed in just his third start over a two-week period after receiving some extended rest with the bye week.
“He was sure sharp tonight,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “As much as rest, it’s just a day or two of maintenance work. When you play as much hockey as Moose has played for us, you don’t get those quality practice days in. Sometimes you forget the value of just good, simple work.”
“I think it’s the confidence level right now. Obviously, Moose and Neuvy stepped up over the last couple of games and they played outstanding,” said Michael Raffl, who scored his ninth goal that gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead. “When you have good goaltending, you have a chance to win every game in this league.”
Impressively, the Flyers (23-16-8) have three different three-game winning streaks in which they’ve been forced to play three games over a four-day period. The first set of three came on their Western Canada road trip beginning in Calgary. They also ripped off three straight victories in four days leading into their bye week.
“I think it’s just guys battling through that extra step, that extra fight. That’s what you want,” Couturier said. “You don’t want to just sit back and try to save your energy. You've got to push and push through it and fight for your chances.”
“That’s a real credit to the players with their preparation,” Hakstol said. “The mental side is about your preparation, especially a 12:30 p.m. game is a little bit different routine. I thought the first period was going to be one of the keys to this game. Our checking and our brains were turned on that way. Getting through that first period made us a better team with the puck and pushing the game in our direction.”
The Flyers have two more games before the All-Star break as they travel to Detroit on Tuesday before hosting the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.