Image credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Shootout loss to Buffalo? Devastating.
Six points back of a playoff spot? Time to sell.
Not so fast my friends.
The Flyers completed the weekend sweep with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals, finding themselves within just two points of the spiraling Boston Bruins for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Michael Del Zotto potted the game-winner over a screened Braden Holtby with just more than four minutes left in the third period after the Capitals had rallied from 2-0 deficit to tie the game. Rob Zepp made 21 saves as he overcame the odds of starting back-to-back games to pick up his second win of the weekend.
Philadelphia got on the board early thanks to a power play goal from Claude Giroux, who scored for the first time in 12 games to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Aside from the goal, it was an uneventful period from both sides as they each looked somewhat sluggish with the early matinee start.
Special teams favored the Flyers once more as Wayne Simmonds was able to swat in a rebound out of the air past Holtby, giving Philadelphia a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the second period.
The Capitals soon turned up the pressure and their aggressive forechecking payed off. Brayden Schenn was checked off the puck in his own corner and John Carlson was able to find former first round pick Tom Wilson, who one timed it past Zepp for his third career goal and cut the lead in half.
Moments later, it appeared the Flyers would be getting a nice sized power play after Jason Chimera dropped the gloves and sucker punched Zac Rinaldo, who normally is throwing punches right back but instead did not drop the gloves. Stunningly, Rinaldo was given a fighting major of his own for taking a punch, and the Flyers only got a regular power play.
The Flyers hung on to their 2-1 lead for much of the period, until Joel Ward spun around and connected with a rocket past Zepp that had no chanced to be stopped to tie things up and silence the sell-out Wells Fargo crowd.
The third period had a playoff feel to it as the Flyers traded chances with the Caps throughout. The Flyers were able to survive an early power play from the Capitals and Holtby made several big saves to keep the game tied.
Finally, what could be the defining sequence to the Flyers’ season took place. Jakub Voracek hopped on with the fourth line and recovered a loose puck after Chris Vandevelde kept play alive in the zone. Voracek then made a fantastic pass across the zone to find a streaking Del Zotto, who fired it top shelf to give the Flyers the lead.
Despite facing the extra-attack and on the penalty kill, the Flyers were able to survive the last minute desperation from the Capitals to secure the victory.
The Flyers improved to 26-23-11 for 63 points and now a somewhat serious contender to a slumping Boston squad and a very young Florida team. They have made up 10 plus points in just a few weeks and were left for dead as recently as Thursday. Philadelphia has two winnable road games against Carolina and advanced metric darlings Toronto before a huge showdown Saturday night against the NY Rangers.
It was a fairly even game between both teams as the Flyers just out attempted the Capitals 40-36 at even strength. Chris VandeVelde and the first line trio of Giroux, Simmonds and Michael Raffl led the way for the Flyers with plus 60% Corsi for percentages. On the other end, RJ Umberger was on the ice for a team high 17 WSH attempts,
Zepp just wins
Despite looking at times shaky this weekend, Rob Zepp got the job done in back-to-back starts. He was huge in the shootout against Nashville, and made some big saves in the final period today. Zepp improved to 5-1 with the Flyers and is making a case to stay in Philadelphia as the backup once Mason returns from injury.
MDZ was the big hero Saturday with his game-winning goal, but really has been one of the most consistent Flyers defensemen (which with this team is a massive compliment). Despite questionable being healthy scratched for a stretch of games, Del Zotto has turned in seven goals, 16 assists for 23 points in 47 games. He’s a sub-50% possession player by a hair, but his 1.4 points/60 is great. Not bad for a emergency signing after Kimmo Timonen’s injury.