By Connor Thomas
Yesterday was a win for Philadelphia sports fans before the Flyers even took the ice to play the Washington Capitals. The reason being, of course, is that for the first time in 362 days, there were fans back in attendance at a home Philly sporting event. There were only about 3,000 in attendance, but the long-awaited return to in-person viewing finally ended last night. The Sixers will break their drought coming up next week, and the Phillies on April 1st, but with last night’s contest, the normalcy of sports in Philadelphia officially returned. Unfortunately, the game itself did not live up to the moment created by the return of fans. The Flyers were active for the first 10 minutes of the 1st period, but had come up empty handed on the scoreboard until with 9 minutes left, Joel Farabee received an outlet from Sean Couturier creating a 2 on 1 opportunity that he finished off himself through the 5 hole of Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov. The fans roared to life, and for a moment, all was right in the Wells Fargo Center. With a 1-0 lead, the chants of “Let’s go Flyers” rained down from the stands at the barn, but sadly, that moment was the height of excitement on Sunday night.
The rest of the 1st period was scoreless for either team, and the 2nd was clean for the most part, despite power play opportunities for both sides. It took until the final 4 minutes of the 2nd period, but Washington finally broke through to spoil what had been a strong start by Carter Hart, as Alex Ovechkin was the beneficiary of a beautiful setup by TJ Oshie that he flipped into an open back side of the net. With the score seemingly tied at 1-1 heading into the 3rd, a lazy icing by Philly allowed the Caps an offensive zone faceoff that turned into a 2nd goal with just 15 seconds left on the clock, this time courtesy of Dimtry Orlov. It is an absolute back breaker to give up a goal that late in a period, and the Flyers played the remainder of the game like their back was indeed broken. It only took 5 minutes of game time into the 3rd for the Capitals to push their advantage to 2 and steepen the hill the orange and black would have to climb. The play resulting in the goal started with a neutral ice check from Zdeno Chara that deposited Joel Farabee on his backside and led to a scuffle mid-play between Chara and James van Riemsdyk. With two Flyers distracted, no one was home to cover a trailing Nick Jensen who beat Hart stick side.
Philly created some scoring opportunities, but none good enough to sneak by Samsonov who turned in a stellar performance for Washington. The biggest disappointment coming out of the loss was the Flyer’s power play unit, who were 0 for 4 on the night. After a rough special teams series in Pittsburgh this past week, there will be plenty of work to be done on correcting the issues both shorthanded and on the man advantage. There will not be much time to work on those issues, but the good news is the next contest for Philly will be home against the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night, who they have shutout in 2 consecutive meetings. Hopefully the Flyers, who fell to 12-7-3, will be able to bounce back in that contest.