The Wells Fargo Center flickered with light-up bracelets doled out to fans from the rink-side seats to the nosebleeds.
But as the Flyers unraveled Monday evening and the glow dimmed, the bracelets went from flickering in the stands to fluttering to the ice.
It was the culmination of a special night gone awry and a series gone wrong.
In Game 3 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the Capitals, the Flyers went from a 1-0 lead in the opening 57 seconds to a 6-1 catastrophe as their season now reaches the edge of the plank — a 3-0 series deficit to the NHL’s best (see Instant Replay).
“Well, emotional roller coaster, for sure,” Mark Streit said. “To have such a touching ceremony and we came out flying, scored a goal right away, and then somehow we lose that momentum — that can’t happen, especially against a team like that.”
The night started with such promise for the Flyers before fans ditched their bracelets and filed for the exits (see story). The arena lit up like a Christmas tree while Flyers Stanley Cup Playoff logos flashed on the ice. The pregame pump-up gave way to a beautiful video tribute and moment of silence honoring and remembering the life of beloved founder Ed Snider, who died on April 11.
In what seemed like seconds after “God Bless America” was sung, Michael Raffl sent the crowd into bedlam by giving the Flyers their first lead in the series.
“I thought we came out and had a great start,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We kept pushing.”
The Flyers did, but eventually the special teams blues reared their ugly head.
Washington went on the game’s first power play and, as it did in Game 2, promptly cashed in on the first shot taken when Marcus Johannson deflected it past Steve Mason for a 1-1 tie at 4:43 of the opening period.
At 8:50 of the second frame, the lead was gone.
Alex Ovechkin sprung out from standing behind a referee in front of the Capitals’ bench, quickly gathered the puck and ripped it just between the post and a slow-reacting Mason.
As Washington capitalized, the Flyers sputtered. The power play, already 0 for 8 in the series entering the game, looked so out of sorts it was hard to decipher which team had the extra man.
The Flyers went goalless on their first three power plays, registering just one shot.
“Yeah, I mean, we can talk about the power play all we want,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “It is a big part of the game, but five-on-five is more important to us. It is our chance to capitalize on the power play, but if it’s not coming, it’s not coming.
“We’re going to keep pushing, doing our plays, doing our sets, our breakouts. You know, hopefully we’ll get one.”
They never did Monday.
The Flyers finished 0 for 5 and are 0 for 13 over the series. Including the regular season, the Flyers have just three goals on their last 30 man advantages.
“Obviously, it’s not going for us,” Simmonds said. “There’s nothing we can do about it, all you have to do is you’ve got to make your bounces. You’ve got to keep working, keep working and hopefully things will change.
“You’ve got to make sure you go out there and work your butt off and make your chances. This is not going to change easy. It’s up to us to go out there and take responsibility and be the team that we can be.”
The Capitals then morphed into the team they’ve been, blitzing the Flyers and running the fans out of the building. Washington reeled off four power-play goals in the final stanza, flipping a one-goal cushion into a five-goal blowout.
It started when Mason had trouble gloving a wacky bounce off the stanchion, allowing Evgeny Kuznetsov to flush an easy puck 1:58 into the third period.
Not long after John Carlson sniped his third goal of the series for a 4-1 Capitals lead, the Flyers’ frustrations boiled over. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Radko Gudas and Ryan White were all tossed at 12:17 after a scrum just as the bracelet fiasco commenced.
“It’s not too fun,” Claude Giroux said. “We take a lot of pride playing in front of our fans and we want to play hard — that’s our identity. It’s not too fun.”
Washington tacked on two more for good measure and the meltdown was complete.
“The game got away from us in the last 10 minutes,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You have to be able to separate that out. The third goal against, the way it happened took the wind out of our sails a little bit.”
Not just the game, but also the series.
“They’re a good team,” Giroux said. “They dominated all year. We just have to find a way to beat them.”
And do it four times.