Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Flyers Hit Midpoint with OT Win

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The Philadelphia Flyers hit the statistical midpoint of the 2014-15 season with a 2-1 overtime win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia is 16-18-7 for the season, compared with 20-17-4 at the same point last year. The Flyers are 10-5-3 at home.

An overtime power play goal by NHL leading scorer Jakub Voracek secured the victory for Philadelphia.

The Flyers also got even strength regulation goals by Sean Couturier and R.J. Umberger. Matt Read and Nick Schultz each earned two assists apiece in regulation, while Claude Giroux and Mark Streit assisted on the overtime goal. Winning goaltender Steve Mason turned back 26 of 28 shots.

Washington got a first period power play goal by Alexander Ovechkin and a controversial third period goal by defenseman Karl Alzner. Braden Holtby, setting a new Capitals franchise record for a goaltender by appearing in his 23rd straight game, stopped 30 of 33 shots in a losing cause.

The Flyers went 1-for-4 on the power play while the Caps were 1-for-3. 1ST PERIOD

The Capitals got the game’s first power play at 2:34 on a Michael Del Zotto stick slashing penalty along the boards in the defensive zone,

The Caps made quick work of it, scoring on the game’s first shot. Ovechkin one-timed a left point shot home past Mason at 3:08. The goal,Ovechkin’s 21st of the season, was assisted by Mike Green and Marcus Johansson

After a strong forechecking shift by Scott Laughton’s line, Philadelphia’s third line tied the game at 9:53 on Couturier’s even strength goal. Read deflected a Schultz shot attempt and the puck went directly to Couturier,who was alone near the right post. The goal was Couturier’s 10th of of the season.

With 1:41 left in the first period, Nicklas Grossmann got up slowly and went off the ice with trainer Jim McCrossin after taking a hit from Tom Wilson.Grossmann got a delay of game penalty for flipping the puck over the glass on the initial play. Wayne Simmonds served the penalty.

The hit itself was clean. Wilson hit Grossmann from the side and it was it was not charging. Unfortunately, Grossmann, who was favoring his right shoulder, did not return to the game,

Shots on goal in the first period were tied, 10-10. Faceoffs were 12-6 in the Caps’ favor, including 3-for-3 for Nicklas Bäckström. 2ND PERIOD

The Flyers killed off the remainder of the Grossmann minor and got their first power play of the game on a John Carlson tripping penalty on Voracek at 2:19.

Referee Ghislain Hebert waved off a would-be power play goal for Brayden Schenn pushing Holtby (and the puck) into the net,

The Caps had just two shots for the period through the first 16 minutes but Mason then had to come up big on a bang-bang chance off a left circle faceoff. On the next shift, the Flyers had a flurry of chances but neither R.J. Umberger nor Brayden Schenn were able to find the net on opportunities from the slot.

In the final half-minute of the period, Mason stopped a Troy Brouwer chance from near the right post. The sequence started with a neutral zone turnover by Voracek.

With 7.3 seconds left in the period, Brooks Orpik was penalized for a careless tripping penalty on Sean Couturier. Voracek had a scoring chance from the bottom of the right circle just before the buzzer.

Shots in the second period were 10-4 for the Flyers, (20-14 Flyers through two periods). Philly also missed the net on eight attempts in that period. Faceoffs were 10-9 Flyers (21-16 for Washington through two periods). 3RD PERIOD

The Capitalls took a 2-1 lead at 3:08. Alzner’s point shot wound up in the net after deflecting in (possibly) off Braydon Coburn’s elbow. After a very long replay delay, the goal was allowed. Ovechkin’s stick was clearly high as was Bäckström’s but the replay officials could not find a conclusive angle to rule that a Cap had illegally played the puck into the goal.

Philadelphia did not take long to tie the game. Couturier won a faceoff and Schultz’s resulting shot rebounded to Umberger, who stuffed the puck home from near the right post for his sixth goal of the season. Schultz and Matt Read got their second assists of the game at 4:22.

The Flyers received a too many men on the ice penalty at 13:21.Philadelphia killed the penalty successfully.

Philly got its third power play of the game at 17:06. This time the Caps were called for too many men on the ice. The Flyers called timeout with 1:13 remaining in the penalty — served by Ovechkin — and 2:07 left on the game clock. Late in the penalty kill, Holtby made a strong positional save to deny Brayden Schenn on a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle.

Shots in the third period were 13-11 for Washington (31-27 Flyers through regulation). Faceoffs were 17-9 Flyers (33-27 Flyers through regulation). OVERTIME

The Flyers earned a 4-on-3 power play at 1:11 on a hooking penalty against. On the delayed call, the Flyers had chances for Giroux and Wayne Simmonds on a potential rebound.

Philly wont the game 17 seconds into the power play. Voracek rotated left and received a pass from Giroux. Voracek then one-timed a shot from an unfamiliar shooting spot — just above the left circle — that went into the net (possibly off Washington’s Bäckström) for his 16th goal of the season. Giroux earned his 32nd assist of the season, while Streit got his 23rd.

Philadelphia had two shots in the overtime to one for Washington to finish the game with a 33-28 shot edge. The Capitals won three of four faceoffs in OT but the Flyers won 34 of 64 for the game). Giroux was 18-for-28 for the game, POSTGAME NOTES AND QUOTES

* This was the explanation of the ruling on the Alzner goal by the Situation Room in Toronto: “At 3:08 of the third period in the Capitals/Flyers game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play at the Philadelphia net. Video review was inconclusive in determining whether Nicklas Backstrom’s stick was at or below the level of the crossbar when he deflected the puck into the net. The referee’s call on the ice was good goal. According to Rule 38.4 (vi) “The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick in relation to the crossbar. If the puck makes contact with the portion of the stick that is at or below the level of the crossbar and enters the goal, this goal shall be allowed”. Therefore the referee’s call on the ice stands – good goal Washington.”

* After the game, Ron Hextall released a statement on Nicklas Grossmann’s injury: “We will let [the media] know tomorrow when it is more definitive.”

* The Flyers will hold an 11:30 a.m. practice on Friday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ.

* Philadelphia is now 4-2 in games decided in overtime this season. In franchise regular-season history, the team is 100-93 in overtime decisions.

* With back-to-back wins in a 2-1 shootout decision and 3-2 overtime, the Flyers improved to 4-17-6 in games when scoring fewer than four regulation/overtime goals.

* The two-assist game for Nick Schultz was just the seventh in his 920-game NHL regular season game (plus 26 playoff games in which he has two career assists and no multi-point efforts). It was his first since November 19, 2010, when he recorded two assists for Minnesota in a 4-3 win at Detroit.

* The Flyers blocked 20 shots as a team for the game, led by four from Michael Del Zotto.

* Schultz said after the game that the forwards deserve credit for the back-pressure they generated against Washington’s dangerous attack. Schultz said, “It’s important to have good gaps and stand up and be tight in the neutral zone if it’s off draws or anything like transition plays from the other team, obviously if you have that support coming back from your forwards you can be a little more aggressive. It’s a lot easier to play that way when you can trust in each other and trust that your forwards are coming back and it’s way easier to turn pucks over and go in the offense and play in the other end.”

* As the game progressed, Vincent Lecavalier was moved onto Scott Laughton’s line to try to generate more offense.

* Flyers head coach Craig Berube said he talked this week to Sean Couturier and his linemates about trying to be more aggressive offensively.

* Couturier on trying to exploit the potential defensive shortcomings of Washington’s top line: ““We wanted to get a good forecheck going and try and play in their end most of the night. I think they don’t really want to play defense so when you are in their end you try and take advantage of it, and I think tonight we created a lot of turnovers and hard pressure. We got a few pucks toward the net, and got a few bounces right away, so it was nice.”

* Couturier on his goal: “It started with good ‘O’ zone pressure. We created a couple turnovers and Schultz was able to put the puck on net. I drove to the net and got a lucky bounce. I’ll take it.”

* R.J. Umberger on the Flyers’ third line generating two goals : “We did a pretty good job as a line tonight. I thought when we were in the offensive zone they didn’t want us there obviously so they played good defense. We were able to take it to them and we were pretty sharp in our end; I think they had a couple of power play chances but that’s about it.”

* Jakub Voracek on the importance of winning 2-1 or 3-2 games, and doing so in back-to-back games after previously scuffling for wins in such games: “It’s the way it’s going to be. (During) the second half of the season, the games are going to be tight. It’s not that easy in the position that we are in to keep our cool, stick with it, not panic. That’s what we did the last two games, and that’s why we got four points.”

* Flyers head coach Craig Berube on Voracek’s goal: “Just more rolling through the umbrella most of the time. I think most of the time they start off in a box and Simmonds is at the net and Giroux is going to run it and make plays. We had a nice feed to Jake and he shot the puck. It’s pretty simple 4 on 3 – I always say it’s the hardest power play to score on 4 on 3. I think so anyhow. Jake shot the puck, it went off the guy and it went into the net. You shot the puck and good things happen.”

* Berube on how Voracek has been able to produce so consistently in the first half of the season: “He’s a very even-keeled guy. I’m not sure he even thinks about being the top scorer in the league. He wants to win hockey games. He’s a real team guy and he works hard. That what he does, he’s a hard working guy with skill. He really works hard out there. He’s competitive. He’s one of the hardest working guys every night.

* Steve Mason on the 20 blocked shots tonight and his view as a goalie of the emphasis on shot-blocking in today’s game: “That’s definitely a huge part of the game now. Sometimes the pucks will deflect and end up in the net but it’s an important part of the game that gets overlooked. You’ve got to admire guys putting their faces and their bodies in harm’s way against shooters like Ovechkin.”

* Mason said he “tweaked something” early in the game but “it went away pretty quickly” and he felt fine thereafter. The goalie admitted it was the same issue he had in Tuesday’s game.

* Mason on the Alzner goal and whether Bäckström played it with a high stick: “I thought it was a high stick for sure, and then it sounded on the PA like they didn’t even give him the goal. From what I saw it was a high stick, but the NHL makes their call and they didn’t have enough video for it. I talked to a couple guys who feel the same way, but you put it behind you and you get ready for the next shot.”

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