WASHINGTON — Suddenly, the second period has become a disastrous 20 minutes for the Flyers.
After the Flyers took a 2-0 lead in a strong opening period, the Washington Capitals exploded for a three-goal second period and never looked back in a 5-3 win Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.
The Flyers have now surrendered six second-period goals over their last two games after they gave up three goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final matchup leading up to the All-Star break.
Caps winger Chandler Stephenson erased the Flyers’ 2-0 lead with a pair of goals in a span of 47 seconds. Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Devante Smith-Pelley also added goals for Washington.
Prior to Wednesday’s game, Dave Hakstol elected to change up his lines. Rookie Nolan Patrick made his coach look brilliant as he scored a beautiful backhanded goal to beat Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby to give the Flyers the early 1-0 lead. Patrick also assisted on Jakub Voracek’s goal for the first multi-point game of his career.
Flyers winger Travis Konecny remained red hot scoring his 11th goal of the season, matching his goal total from his rookie season. Konecny now has a goal in five straight games.
Michal Neuvirth stopped all six shots in the first period, but looked shaky doing so. It proved to be foreshadowing as Neuvirth, who was battling a stomach bug, was pulled for Alex Lyon in the third period after stopping 15 of 20 shots. Lyon was able to save all five shots he saw in relief duty.
• It didn’t take long for the Flyers to strike. They negotiated a perfectly executed breakout as Robert Hagg tossed it along the boards, which led to a 2-on-1 break the other way. The Flyers took advantage of Caps defenseman John Carlson stepping up to play the puck in their zone and Patrick simply outskated Alex Ovechkin in getting the pass from Wayne Simmonds. Patrick’s speed has been questioned this season, but clearly he can turn on the jets when needed as witnessed on his fourth goal of the season.
“It was a great breakout and a great play by Jake,” Patrick said during the first intermission. “He redirected it through his legs and then it was an unbelievable pass by Simmer and luckily enough it went in.”
• The Caps came at the Flyers hard with a deep forecheck. The Flyers took advantage as Konecny took the pass from Sean Couturier. If it wasn’t for a brilliant glove save from Holtby, Konecny would have had two first-period goals.
• Good things happen when Couturier drives to the net. He blew past Capitals defenseman Christian Djoos, who in turn barreled into Holtby in net, and all Konecny had to do was clean up the mess in front. Couturier plays such a power game and has increasingly improved his skating over the years, but his presence opens up opportunities for him linemates, and right now, Konecny took full advantage.
• You might expect Ovechkin to score two goals in 47 seconds, but not Stephenson. The first goal was a mind-boggling play by Neuvirth, who was standing straight up and definitely not in a ready position to stop a shot. Perhaps he wasn’t expecting a sharp-angled shot, but regardless, it’s inexcusable as Stephenson came in and tapped it home. The Capitals gained the momentum with their first score of the night.
• Just 47 seconds later, Stephenson got behind the Flyers’ defense for a breakaway on Neuvirth and simply slid his backhand through the five-hole. I’m not sure how the Flyers defensively got so discombobulated out there with the Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas pairing on the ice. With Gudas playing near the offensive blue line, Manning drifted toward Gudas, which left the right side of the ice wide open. Just a bad read all the way around. That disaster led to a goal and tied the game at 2-2.
• With Andrew MacDonald in the box for slashing Ovechkin, the Capitals’ second power-play unit went to work. Burakovsky got inside position on Manning and simply redirected a pass from Lars Eller that got through Neuvirth for a 3-2 Capitals lead. Manning with a bad game at this point, which has to leave Hakstol considering playing Mark Alt Thursday in New Jersey.
• The Capitals scored their fourth unanswered goal when their power play came through for the second time in this game. The Flyers were forced to change up their PK unit, which left Valtteri Filppula, Jori Lehtera, Hagg and MacDonald out there against the Caps’ lethal No. 1 power-play unit. Hagg lost his stick, which created an even bigger disaster and Lehtera failed to close the gap as Oshie settled into the soft spot in the Flyers’ PK box. NBC Sports Washington Capitals insider, Tariq El-Bashir, said Oshie hasn’t had that much room to operate on the power play all season.
• Manning may have chosen to drop the gloves with Alex Chiasson in an effort to release some frustration from a horrible night. Chiasson came in hard on the forecheck and may have clipped the back of Manning’s leg, but regardless, Manning felt he needed to retaliate.
• Jordan Weal doesn’t seem to have the confidence to drive to the net like Konecny does right now. With the puck on his stick and only one man between himself and the goal, Weal elected to pull up and look for the open man. That was his choice instead of creating an open shooting lane or driving hard to the net in the hopes of drawing a penalty. Last season, Weal had that determination, but it’s been a missing element this season.
• The Capitals helped the Flyers out in the first period by looking for that perfect pass instead of just shooting the puck and driving to the net when the opportunity presented itself. Give the Flyers credit as they were able to cut off passing lanes with defensemen blocking a handful of shots. Washington had the edge in possession time in the offensive zone, but give the Flyers credit as they were more opportunistic and even outshot the Caps, 11-6, in the opening period.
• Manning had a risky backhanded play behind his net to MacDonald, who couldn’t handle it either and nearly led to a Capitals’ power-play goal. MacDonald will risk his body in blocking shots, but his positioning and ability to get twisted like a pretzel is a recipe for a disaster on the penalty kill. Outside of Ivan Provorov and Hagg, the Flyers’ PK is thin on the back end.
Lines, pairings and scratches
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Jakub Voracek-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Michael Raffl
Tyrell Goulbourne-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas
Scratches: Forwards Dale Weise (healthy) and Taylor Leier (healthy), and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).