The Philadelphia Flyers’ chances of earning a playoff spot have been reduced significantly this week, but thanks to a shootout victory in Pittsburgh on Thursday they retain a glimmer of hope heading into a Saturday afternoon game against the visiting Washington Capitals.
The Flyers have gained only two of a possible six points in their past three games and sit comfortably behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East with 13 games remaining.
Goaltender Carter Hart, who has struggled immensely over the past few weeks, made 31 saves — 13 in the third period and overtime in the 2-1 shootout triumph over the Penguins. It was Hart’s first win eight starts.
“In overtime, we were not the better team,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Carter kept us in, gave us a chance.”
Hart was also terrific in the shootout with saves against captain Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang. Not too long ago, Hart was benched and had his work ethic questioned by Vigneault.
This was definitely a step in the right direction and potentially a step toward the postseason.
“It’s a huge two points,” Hart said. “We’re in crunch time, so every game right now from here on in is huge.”
Philadelphia has continued to tinker with its lines all season to find the right combinations. Wade Allison was the next man up and made his National Hockey League debut against Pittsburgh.
“It’s been a long road,” said Allison, 23. “A lot of ups and downs. I did it. It’s pretty cool. Something I’ll remember forever. Something that no one can ever take from me. It’s pretty special.”
The Capitals look to rebound following a disappointing 5-2 loss to the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. The Capitals had won three in a row before this unexpected effort.
Nicklas Backstrom played in his 1,000th career game, but the milestone didn’t inspire the Capitals on the ice.
“Turnovers played a huge factor,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “A lot of times you turn the puck over because you’re not moving the way you’re capable of moving in your strides or you’re on your toes. They were on their toes tonight. They were forcing the issue.
“We weren’t at that speed or at that gear and often times you just throw the puck or move the puck without the strides and it goes the wrong way.”
Still, for the Capitals to make a deep playoff run, they’ll continue to rely on their veterans such as superstar captain Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom.
“For Nick, it was a tremendous accomplishment,” Laviolette said. “He’s been such a valuable, important piece for this organization for so many years. To take a minute and honor him for what he’s done and what he’s accomplished I think is important.”
Yet, on such a special night, Backstrom took two penalties and the Capitals had 15 giveaways. The recipe was a loss.
“There’s no easy games,” Lars Eller said. “We were lacking a little bit of compete level and poor decision-making at times just cost us.”
Washington is 4-1-0 against Philadelphia this season.
–Field Level Media