The Philadelphia Flyers squeezed out a 2-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night IN Washington, D.C. The Capitals came into tonight’s game up 3 games to 1 in the 7 game series looking to finish off the Flyers. The Flyers had other thoughts tonight and played an average overall game, but thanks to underrated goaltender Michal Neuvirth, they escaped with the shutout win.
Washington wanted to forget about their disappointing Game 4 and start anew in Game 5. Once again the Flyers followed their gut instinct and went with Michal Neuvirth after his impressive performance in Game 4. He led the Flyers to a crucial win in a game that was win or go home and he looked to do the same tonight.
The first period started out as a wild one, with the two teams engaging in an early brawl just TEN seconds into the game. The brawl featured Philly winger Brayden Schenn and Caps winger T.J. Oshie. Both players fought for a good amount of time and both got a number of clean punches in but the fight ended in a clean tie. After this start to the game, you could tell that tonight’s match up wasn’t going to be an easy win for either team. The games first penalty went to Capitals vet Justin Williams just 1:08 into the game as he was called for a double minor (four minutes) for hi-sticking Philly defender Nick Schultz. Now the Flyers still struggling on the man advantage looked to score an early goal to get the crowd out of the game. Well, this didn’t happen, in fact, they only mustered three shots on net and with a stellar penalty kill by the Caps, their fans got loud with the kill.
Next, Paul Bunyan aka Radko Gudas took the Flyers first infraction of the game when he cross-checked Washington D-man Karl Alzner 5:45 into the period. This mistake sent the Caps to their almost unstoppable power play and the first of tonight’s contest. Philly was on lock down defense and only gave up 2 easy shots and killed that opportunity with comfort. Finally, almost 10 minutes into the game, Washington grabs the games first primal scoring chance. Surprisingly, Caps enforcer Tom Wilson grabbed the puck behind the Flyers net. He then spotted fellow enforcer Daniel Winnik in front and hit him with an amazing no look-back hand pass from behind the net. Winnik received the pass and fired a quick wrister on net and was kicked aside by Neuvirth’s right pad and made a miraculous save to keep the score at 0-0.
Again, there was another penalty called just 1:53 later with Caps winger Justin Williams getting called for goaltender interference on Michal Neuvirth. This brace sent the Flyers to their second PP of the game, but just like the last one, they only threw two weak shots on net and it was killed off with poise. Now 5:28 later, a little scuffle ensued between Caps winger Jason Chimera and Philly defender Nick Schultz. This little brouhaha resulted in each player getting a two-minute penalty for roughing.
The second period started off edgy with the teams combining for 3 hits within the first 1:05. Then just 2:05 into the second period the Caps took ANOTHER penalty with Marcus Johansson roughing Flyers rookie Colin McDonald from behind. Philadelphia was sent to their third power play of the game, but this didn’t last as long as the Flyers hoped for. Just 1:35 into the Flyers PP, rookie defender Shayne Gostisbehere got called for two minutes for holding the stick of Capitals Daniel Winnik. The two teams played four on four hockey for the remainder of the two penalties.
Once again, there was another penalty for the Capitals. This time, it was Washington’s Justin Williams again for catching Flyers captain Claude Giroux with a hi-stick. Philly would then go on their 4th man advantage of the game and this time, they would cash in and grab the games first goal. As the Capitals penalty expired, Flyers defender Mark Streit moved the puck over to Flyers winger Sam Gagner on the left point. Gagner decided to let a one-timer clap bomb go towards the net. His shot hit Philly grinder Ryan White who was standing in front of Holtby’s net. The puck hit White and fell down right in front of him. White quickly jumped on the puck and fired it on net with his back still facing Holtby. The puck took a lucky bounce and hit Capitals defenseman Taylor Chorney who was standing at the side of the net. Unfortunately, Chorney was in the wrong place at the wrong time as the puck hit his skate and ricocheted into the wide open net to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
The Capitals would then grab the next excellent scoring chance with just 2:09 remaining in the second period. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who was on the half board on the right side, located Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin in the high slot. Backstrom skimmed a pass to Ovi who had trouble with the puck in his feet. As he was being peppered from behind by Philly call-up Colin McDonald he was still able to get a wrist shot on net. Neuvirth was able to propel the puck out with his right pad but was not able to control the rebound as the puck scooted out to his right. Washington winger Marcus Johansson was able to reach the rebound, turn, and fire the puck on net. Neuvirth was able to push off to his right and absolutely ROBB Johansson of a wide open net and a sure goal with his right pad. This save was one of if not the best save of Neuvirth’s game and kept his team in the lead going into the second intermission. The Flyers were lucky to not have given up a goal because they were heavily outshot by Washington 16-2 in the second period alone. HUGE credit to goalie Michal Neuvirth for standing on his head.
Philadelphia started the third period fast obviously looking for that insurance goal. Only 2:30 into the final frame, Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere had the puck at the point and shot a laser to the net that beat Holtby to the right but not the post and rang right off the cross bar. Philly would then get another scoring possibility with the Capitals taking their 5th penalty of the game 6:51 into the third. Caps right winger Jason Chimera dished out a huge cheap shot on Flyers stud Jakub Voracek and got two minutes for boarding. Philly would only manage one shot on this PP but gave up a great short-handed chance. Caps winger Daniel Winnik went streaking down the left-hand boards. He out waited sliding Philly D-man Shayne Gostisbehere and centered a pass towards streaking Caps enforcer Jay Beagle. Beagle lunged for the puck and tipped it on net but was stoned by Neuvirth who robbed Beagle with a huge left pad save to keep their lead intact again. Flyers Ryan White would then get a trip to the sin bin after interfering with Washington defender Nate Schmidt. The Capitals would look to find a way to tie the game on their sizzling power play. Well, the Flyers penalty killers were up to the task again and killed the penalty off while only giving up one small shot.
Washington would then get their best opportunity of the game with 6:34 left in the game. Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin came busting down the right-hand side of the ice. He rifled a wrist shot low far side that was easily turned away with Neuvirth’s left pad. The juicy rebound went right into the wide open slot just sitting there waiting for Washington defenseman, Dmitry Orlov to hammer it home, but Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere had other plans. Right as Orlov was about to fire home the game-tying rebound into the open net, Gostisbehere dove and knocked the puck away as well as Orlov’s stick right out of his hand for a marvelous defensive play!
Like I said, that was Washington’s last prime scoring chance of the game. They pulled goaltender Braden Holtby with 1:02 left in the game in the hope of a game-tying goal. Washington was only able to get one shot through on goal as Philly was blocking everything in sight. Then with 31 seconds left in the game, the Flyers would put the icing on the cake. Flyers 4th liner, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare stole the puck off the stick of Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and passed the puck over to Flyers fellow 4th liner Chris VandeVelde. He then would go in all alone on the wide open net and throw the puck into the goal to end the Caps chance at a comeback and make the score 2-0. This score held till the final buzzer for a huge win.
Philly won this game thanks to wonderful goaltending from Michal Neuvirth for the second game in a row. Tonight he turned away all 44 shots thrown his way for hist first shutout of his 2016 playoff campaign. On the other hand, Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped 10 out of 11 shots faced for a .900 SV%. The Flyers 11 shots are a team record for fewest shots in a playoff game in franchise history.
The Capitals lead in shots (44-11), penalty minutes (19-13), faceoffs (38-34) and hits (35-17). The Flyers only led in blocks (18-6) and giveaways (5-4). Philly were a dreadful 0/6 on the power play while Washington was 0/2.
The Flyers once again staved off elimination and cut into the Caps series lead and now made it (3-2). Philly will now head back home to the WFC for Game 6 in the hope of forcing another Game 7. This game will be played on Sunday at Noon and can be seen on NBC, CBC, or TVAS.