Flyers rebound with statement win over NHL-leading Capitals

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Flyers returned home to the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night, and bounced back from their horrid road trip with a statement victory.

Carter Hart rebounded from a poor start to the game to finish with 26 saves, while Kevin Hayes’ shorthanded breakaway finish in the second period propelled the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals.

Travis Konecny kicked off the action 3:24 into the opening period, scoring his 14th goal of the season. Konecny’s finish came off of a great find from line-mate and fellow winger, Sean Couturier. Couturier forced Nick Jensen into a mistake along the boards, before hitting Konecny in front of the goal. The winger made no mistake as he scored in the top-right corner past Braden Holtby.

However, the Capitals pressured the Flyers into a mistake of their own eventually leading to the tying goal of the first period. Alex Ovechkin bumped Travis Sanheim off the puck deep in the Flyers zone, allowing Tom Wilson to set up Nicklas Backstrom for his ninth goal of the season.

Jakub Vrana continued his sensational season for the Capitals, putting Todd Reirden’s side in front later in the period. The winger beat Hart from point-blank range for his 19th goal of the season, as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Michal Kempny picked up the assists.

“It was a great effort,” Flyers center Sean Couturier said. “We came out strong. Special teams were big, PK was big.  Overall, it was a good team effort. Especially that PK goal, that was huge. When you are killing a lot of penalties, it is tough to get any offense going, but we got a big PK goal and killed all of their power plays. I think that was a big part of the win.”

The Flyers, however, did not hang their heads going into the first intermission as Robert Hagg got a bit of luck on his slap shot. Hagg’s shot deflected in off T.J. Oshie to give the Flyers a 2-2 scoreline after 20 minutes of play. It was Hagg’s first goal of the season.

With the Capitals looking for a go-ahead goal heading into the second intermission, it was the Flyers’ penalty kill who did the damage. Kevin Hayes deked and scored past Holtby for a shorthanded go-ahead goal, continuing a sloppy defensive performance from the East leaders.

Hart made several second period saves, but none bigger than on Ovechkin’s slap shot in the final minute. Hart stacked the pads to leave the Russian playmaker frustrated and keep his side in front.

“I just have the willingness to block shots and compete, no matter where the game is being played at,” Hart said. “It wasn’t just me, we did extremely well on the penalty kill shutting down one of the top power play units over the last few seasons. Kevin [Hayes] comes up big with the game-winning goal, [Robert] Hagg makes a key block on Ovechkin near the end of the game. It was a total team effort to get two points.”

The Flyers continued to hang onto their lead, successfully killing their fourth and fifth penalty kills of the night. It didn’t go without any drama though as Hart denied Tom Wilson’s breakaway effort with a kick save, before stoning Garnet Hathaway’s shot with his stick.

Wednesday’s victory for the Flyers ended Washington’s five-game winning streak over the Orange and Black. It was also the Flyers’ first head-to-head win over the Capitals since March 2018, moving them to 53 points this season.

“I think we have to keep playing it simple,” Hayes said. “We wanted to come out tonight and play with a lot of energy against one of, if not, the best teams in the NHL. Now we have to keep it going at home, where we’ve been really good this season. We have another tough game on Saturday, so it will be nice to rest and prepare for that.”

Up next for the Flyers is a Saturday showdown with another Eastern Conference team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, at 7 p.m.

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at

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