Oskar Lindblom scored his first NHL goal as part of a six goal outburst, and the Flyers defeated the Washington Capitals 6-3 from the Wells Fargo Center Sunday afternoon.
The 21-year-old rookie from Sweden has been doing everything right since his call up to the big league club 14 games ago except find the stat sheet. Through his first 12 NHL games, Linblom failed to register a point, but continued to get a greater amount of ice time from Head Coach Dave Hakstol for his consistent play. He finally ended his scoreless streak Saturday night in a win over the Carolina Hurricanes, finding an assist on a Jakub Voracek goal.
The first period was rather mundane between the Flyers and Capitals Sunday afternoon, as neither team was able to crack the scoreboard in the first 20 minutes of action. Just 17 combined shots were fired at the two goalies in the first period, likely aided by the 11 total blocked shots. Washington did a tremendous job of keeping the puck away from their netminder, Philipp Grubauer, collecting nine of those first period blocked shots.
As has been the case for the Flyers recently, however, Philadelphia came back onto the ice for the second period, adjustments made, and struck quickly to fire the opening salvo. The Flyers found themselves down a man just 43 seconds into the period due to a hooking call on Sean Couturier. That penalty kill would be short lived, though, as the lines were evened once more when Andre Burakovsky was sent off for goaltender interference.
With the game back at even strength, sans one player for each team, the Flyers would find the back of the net first when Shayne Gostisbehere let one rip from just inside the point, beating Grubauer glove side low for his twelfth goal of the season.
The goal was set up by the captain, Claude Giroux, who recorded his 58th assist of the season, tying him with Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau for third in the NHL. It also put Giroux into a tie for fifth place in points this season, competing with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos with 84 points.
As is the case with so many of the league’s top scorers, you cannot keep a player such as Alex Ovechkin down for an entire 60 minutes of play. The man who joined the illustrious ranks of the 600 goal club earlier this month tied the game at one with just under five minutes to play in the second period. Travis Boyd created the Capitals’ scoring chance on a tremendous spin move to gain access to the slot, splitting in between Valtteri Filppula and Petr Mrazek. Boyd fired the puck at the net, and Ovechkin knocked home the reidrection for his 43rd goal of the season, the most in the league.
Just three minutes later, the Flyers would strike once more, on the Lindblom’s first career NHL goal. After Michael Kempny turned the puck over in his own defensive zone, Lindblom took the puck from Jakub Vorachek, teed up his shot and picked his target, lifting another puck past the glove side shoulder of Gaudreau. With the assist, Vorachek reclaimed a partial lead of that statistical category, drawing even with Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler. The pair have each recorded 60 assists this season.
The Flyers weren’t done in the second period, yet, as the team was not content to go into the locker room with a one goal lead. With 19 seconds remaining in the second period, Ivan Provorov found the back of the net for the Flyers third goal of the period, to stretch the Philadelphia lead to 3-1. The tally was Provorov’s 13th of the season, set up by Radko Gudas and Sean Couturier.
Philadelphia would take the ice aggressively for the final 20 minutes of play, a two goal lead in hand, and extend their lead to three 97 seconds in the period. After an offensive zone draw win, the Flyers played the puck back to the point for Robert Hagg, who shuffled it across the blue line to Radko Gudas. Gudas fired the puck toward the net, and the great equalizer, Wayne Simmonds secured the loose puck and shuffled it past Gaudreau for his 22nd goal of the season, extending the Flyers’ lead to 4-1.
The Capitals weren’t done despite being down by three early in the third period, as nine minutes later Washington was able to climb back within two goals. A Flyers’ turnover in the offensive zone led to a two on one opportunity for the Capitals at the other end, and Chandler Stephenson buried one past an outstretched Petr Mrazek after receiving the feed from Jakub Vrana across the slot. The goal was Stephenson’s sixth of the year, and it trimmed the Flyers’ lead to 4-2.
Quickly back the Flyers would come, as Wayne Simmonds would light the lamp for the second time Sunday afternoon just about four minutes later. The goal was officially ruled unassisted off the stick of Simmonds, as it extended the Flyers’ lead back to three goals, at 5-2.
The third period scoring barrage continued a minute and a half later, as the Capitals crawled, once more, to within two goals after John Carlson picked up the puck to the right of Mrazek after an initial pad save by the goaltender. The defenseman fired a backhand shot and an odd angle, perhaps surprising Mrazek, and beat him for his 14th goal of the season, cutting the lead to 5-3. With two points on the afternoon, Carlson takes the lead in points by a defenseman this season.
That would be the closest the Capitals would strike, and with 40 seconds remaining, and an empty net to shoot at, Jakub Vorachek scored for the 18th time this season to ice the victory for the Flyers, 6-3.
The win improves the Flyers to 37-25-11, 85 points. They gain two crucial points on the Metropolitan Division leading Capitals, who currently remain at 89 points. Sandwiched in between the two teams are the Pittsburgh Penguins, who sit with 87 points. The win also pulls the Flyers away from the two current Wild Card leaders, the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils, who have 83 and 82 points, respectively.
The loss drops the Capitals to 41-24-7, aforementioned, 89 points. The Capitals and Penguins each still have a game in hand over the Flyers.
The Flyers retake the ice Tuesday night when they’ll travel to Detroit to take on the Red Wings. Puck is set to drop at 7:30 p.m., and you can catch all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli