Giroux: Caps killer for Flyers

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Raffl goes horizontal after a big hit by Capitals' Alex Ovechkin.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Raffl goes horizontal after a big hit by Capitals' Alex Ovechkin.
Posted: March 07, 2014

IN HIS FIRST game in Philadelphia this season, in November, repeated blows from Ray Emery rained on Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby against his will while 19,000 fans roared with delight.

On Sunday afternoon against the Flyers, Holtby allowed three goals in a little more than 10 minutes as Washington blew a two-goal, third-period lead and lost in overtime.

Then, hours before his start against the Flyers last night, the Capitals snuck in one last trade on deadline day to acquire Jaroslav Halak from Buffalo - the same goaltender who singlehandedly beat Washington in a 2010 playoff series.

Holtby was having a bad day. His bad day turned into an even rougher evening, allowing two goals on his first nine shots before being pulled in the second period.

His backup? No joke, last-second call-up from Hershey, Philipp Grubauer, was originally scheduled to make a promotional appearance at a Turkey Hill Minit Market in Lancaster last night.

But with the Flyers' furious start last night, it wouldn't have mattered if Holtby, Halak or three-time Vezina winner Glenn Hall was in net. Rambunctious and relentless, the Flyers were downright nasty in the first 30 minutes.

It took the Capitals nearly 34 minutes just to register their fifth shot on goal.

Playing with an intensity that is near impossible to sustain over a full game, the Flyers jumped out to a four-goal cushion in the first half of last night's game before falling asleep at the wheel in the third period. Jake Voracek scored what ultimately became the game-winner to seal an all-important, 6-4 victory for the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on national television.

That's not to say there weren't a few tense moments, especially after Washington scored again after Voracek regained a two-goal lead for the Flyers.

"The first two periods, we played well," Claude Giroux said. "We did a lot of good things. We played like a team, the team we want to be. We've got to tighten up in the third period, but we hung on."

Coupled with the Rangers' overtime loss to Toronto, the Flyers increased their second-place cushion in the Metropolitan Division to a season-high two points. They awake today riding a four-point cushion on a playoff spot for the first time all season.

"For the first two periods, it was probably some of the best hockey we played all season long," said Steve Mason, the winning goalie. "We stopped skating. We stopped playing the way we were playing. We were fortunate to come out of the game with two points in regulation."

And they largely have Giroux to thank for that. Giroux chipped in with two goals and another assist for his sixth point against the Capitals in two games.

In fact, with last night's tallies, for the first time in his career Giroux has scored at least two goals in two consecutive games.

With his three points, Giroux finally climbed to a point-per-game pace with 62 points in 62 games. He finished with 48 points in 48 games last season. The Flyers' captain now has 44 points over his last 33 contests, the most points in the NHL since Dec. 11.

But the Flyers' latest win over their new Metropolitan Division rival began like something similar to one of their old Patrick Division clashes. You could almost see old Flyers coach Paul Holmgren waggling a stick from the bench at then-Capitals coach Terry Murray. Or Dale Hunter scrapping with Ron Hextall.

There is no love lost with these old foes, finally getting reacquainted five or six times a season. They have combined for an amazing 346 penalty minutes in five games this season.

Those numbers still don't come close to the 419 the Flyers and Senators combined for exactly 10 years ago last night, which still stands as a franchise record.

Last night, an old-fashioned donnybrook broke out after Luke Schenn's clean hit on Ryan Stoa near the Flyers' bench. Schenn then fought Tom Wilson, while John Erskine chucked knuckles with Vinny Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds danced with Connor Carrick.

At one point, Simmonds wrestled with Carrick while he reached an arm around Erskine in the corner to help Lecavalier sneak in one last swing. The fans were on their feet inside Wells Fargo Center, producing one of the loudest roars of the season.

It was one Holtby remembers well - and probably won't soon forget.

Slap shots

When rosters were expanded yesterday, winger Michael Raffl was recalled from AHL Adirondack. Raffl, who is waiver-exempt, was sent down Tuesday to make room for Andrew MacDonald. Raffl's second-period goal was changed to Adam Hall . . . With Lecavalier's ejection, Raffl moved up into the top three lines . . . Phantoms goaltender Cal Heeter backed up Steve Mason on an emergency-basis last night. Ray Emery (lower-body) reinjured himself during practice Tuesday and was not ready to return to the lineup.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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