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Meltzer's Musings: Special Teams Key Latest Comeback Win

March 3, 2014, 8:01 AM ET [1309 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT

The Philadelphia Flyers wake up this morning in second place in the Metropolitan Division, following weekend victories on Saturday afternoon against the New York Rangers (4-2) and Sunday afternoon against the Washington Capitals (5-4 in overtime). Coupled with the Rangers' 6-3 loss at home last night to the Boston Bruins, the Flyers have moved from third to second place in the Metro.

The Flyers are 2-1-0 since the Olympic break and 7-3-0 over their last 10 games. That has put them in the driver's seat in the playoff chase. Of course, things could still change in a hurry. The race is too tight for any team to afford even a modest losing streak.

Yesterday in Washington, the Flyers bettered their single-season franchise record for games won after trailing at some point in the third period. The two-goal comeback in the third period and overtime victory marked the team's 11th win when trailing in the third period and seventh (7-17-3) when trailing at the second intermission.

Special teams were at the root of the victory. The Flyers used power play goals by Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and a shorthanded tally by Adam Hall to key multiple comebacks over the course of the game. Washington led by scores of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2 at various junctures of the match.

The last time the Flyers played the Capitals, a reckless major penalty proved very costly to Washington. In the second period Tom Wilson charged at Brayden Schenn (the penalty was called boarding), putting his team shorthanded for five minutes. The Flyers scored twice to turn a 2-2 game into a 4-2 lead.

Yesterday, Orlov went from hero (two goals) to goat after getting tossed from the game for boarding Brayden Schenn at 9:33 of the third period. Voracek blasted home a shot from the right point to cut the Washington lead to 4-3 and put the Caps on their heels for the rest of the game.

With Steve Mason pulled for an extra attacker, Giroux scored his second goal of the game to force overtime. The Flyers only forged ahead when Vincent Lecavalier scored his overtime game-winner on a shot that deflected off Caps' defenseman Karl Alzner.

Giroux finished the game with two goals and an assist. Voracek had a a goal and two assists. Kimmo Timonen racked up three assists, including dishing the puck on the rush to Lecavalier on the overtime goal.

Philly benefited from a pair of favorable video reviews after on-ice no-goal rulings by the referees. Giroux's first goal went in off the goal post and then rocketed out of the net. Later, with the Flyers trailing 2-1, a puck leaked through Mason and was reeled in by Mark Streit as it crossed the goal line. With the puck airborne and tilted, it could not be conclusively determined if the puck had entirely crossed the line (although it probably did). That was not enough evidence to overrule the call on the ice.

Washington was the better team in the first period by a wide margin. The Flyers, who got outshot by a 17-6 margin, were losing too many puck and body/stick positioning battles early in the game. That contributed to the Dmitry Orlov goal (at the end of a long cycling shift) and Marcus Johansson (outworking Nicklas Grossmann near the net) goals that gave Washington their 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

After the first period, Philly dictated the majority of the play even when the scoreboard was not in their favor. The Flyers outshot the Caps by a 30-12 margin over the final 42:45 of the game, including 16-3 in the third period and overtime.

As well as Steve Mason played on Saturday against the Rangers, yesterday's game was not one of his best performances of the season. It wasn't so much that he let in soft goals but he was not tracking or controlling pucks as well as he does when he has his A game going. Meanwhile, the defense in front of the goaltender was poor in the first period but improved as the game moved along.

For the most part, though, the Flyers had to score their way to victory in this uneven game. During the stretch drive and playoffs, all that matters is whether you win. Sometimes you have to win a tight-checking game, sometimes you need to win a track meet. The Flyers of recent years have been better equipped to win the latter type of game.

No matter what happens on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center when the Flyers and Capitals complete their season series and finish their home-and-home set, Philadelphia will remain ahead of Washington in the standings at the end of the game. The Capitals have only won 21 times to date in regulation or overtime -- eight of their wins are via shootout -- and they are far behind the Flyers (29 ROW) and every other team in the playoff hunt in the first tiebreaker.

The Flyers, Rangers, and Capitals have all played 62 games to date, with 20 remaining on the regular season schedule. Philly has 70 points to the Rangers' 69 points and the Caps' 68 points. Fourth-place Columbus is five points behind the Flyers with two games in hand, while the Devils also have 65 points but have played the same number of games as Philly.

Sixth-place Carolina (61 games played) may be trade deadline sellers after dropping their fifth consecutive game and falling nine points behind the Flyers and seven points behind the Detroit Red Wings (60 games played) for the final wildcard spot.

Yesterday's game was the final one for the Flyers before Wednesday afternoon's trade deadline. The team will take today off after playing back-to-back games and three in less than four days. Tomorrow they will practice and try to avoid distractions. Wednesday is a game night.

We have reached the time of year where the road is bumpy and the short-range outlook can change quickly from game to game. That's not just for the Flyers, though. That's for most every team. The stretch drive and playoffs are not for the faint of heart.



On Sun. March 9, starting at 5 p.m., Abrams Hebrew Academy will hold its annual Fund Raising Dinner and Casino Royale Night at Congregation Beth El in Yardley, PA. Special guests for the night will include Bernie Parent, Brian Propp, Bill Clement, Joe Watson and Bob "the Hound" Kelly.

Apart from the dinner and casino event, there will also be a host of items available via auction, including a signed stick by all three members of the Flyers' legendary LCB line (Reggie Leach and Hall of Famers Bob Clarke and Bill Barber), boxes of Bernie Parent's signature cigar line, a handsome Clarke lithograph and many more goodies.

All proceeds go to benefit the school. My nephew, Sammy Sherman, attends Abrams and my sister, Liza, helped to organize the event and line up the Flyers alumni guests. The slogan for the event is "Help Abrams Make Its Goal."

For more information, click here.

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