Bill Meltzer: Gameday Wrapup: Flyers Stonewall Caps, 3-1, Lose Mason Again

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FLYERS STONEWALL CAPS, 3-1, LOSE MASON AGAIN

The Philadelphia Flyers played perhaps their best defensive game of the season as they defeated the Washington Capitals, 3-1, at the Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon.

Despite a 6-to-1 disparity in power plays in Washington’s favor, the Flyers outshot the Capitals, 25-14 for the game. Philadelphia played an outstanding game without the puck, with outstanding gap control, airtight coverage, clean breakouts and few unforced turnovers.

Philly dominated the faceoff circle, winning 61 percent of draws.

Mark Streit, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek (power play empty net goal) tallied for the Flyers. Alexander Ovechkin notched the lone Washington goal, scored shortly after a 5-on-3 power play became a 5-on-4.

The win, however, came at a steep cost to the Flyers. Starting goaltender Steve Mason, who has been nothing short of stellar when in the lineup, suffered his third injury of the season. Mason (eight saves on eight shots) left at the 11:18 mark of the second period. Ray Emery went the rest of the way, stopping five of six shots in 28:42.

Braden Holtby took the loss for Washington. He stopped 22 of 24 shots. 1ST PERIOD

Nicklas Grossmann generated the game’s first shot — a harmless unscreened shot from the point — at 2:06.

Washinton got the game’s first power play on a retaliatory crosscheck behind the play by Ryan White on Jason Chimera at 2:49. The Flyers killed it off without a shot or scoring chance for the Caps.

The Flyers took a too many men on the ice penalty at 6:13, giving the Caps their second power play. Voracek served the penalty.

Nick Schultz bravely blocked an Ovechkin one-timer attempt early in the kill. Shortly thereafter, Couturier intercepted a puck in the neutral zone and — for the second straight game — was not able to finish it off. However, he came closer on this one than on his overtime breakaway against the Islanders on Thursday. The Flyers once again killed off the penalty without yielding a shot.

With 9:18 left in the period, Holtby made a good stop, fighting off traffic to come up with a Mark Streit point shot. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had a moment after the ensuing faceoff on a setup by Vincent Lecavalier. Shots were 5-0 Flyers at this point.

With 8:54 left in the first period, Matt Niskanen obliged Scott Laughton in a fight — a carryover from a check that concussed Laughton the last time the two clubs met. Niskanen won handily, although his punches hurt his own hand more than they hurt Laughton because each shot connected with the Flyers’ rookie’s helmet.

The Caps finally got their first shot — a harmless backhander from the blueline by Nicklas Bäckström that Mason saw and stopped cleanly with 8:02 remaining.

Washington finally had its first real chance with about six minutes left in the period but the puck was blasted high and wide. Shortly after that, Holtby denied Wayne Simmonds on the doorstep off a feed by Couturier.

Ovechkin generated a quick shot from the left slot with about 3:10 remaining in the period. Mason knocked it away.

The Bellemare line had an excellent forechecking shift late in the first period, creating a turnover and a scoring chance.

Shots in the first period were 8-5 in the Flyers’ favor. Faceoffs were 13-7 Flyers. 2ND PERIOD

The Flyers got the game’s first goal at the 50-second mark to take a 1-0 lead. Claude Giroux gained the puck behind the net and sent it around to Del Zotto at left point, who made a D-to-D pass to Mark Streit at the other point. Streit shot the puck at the net with traffic in front and it found its way home.

Streit’s 8th goal of the season was assisted by Del Zotto (13th assist of the season) and Giroux (37th assist). Brayden Schenn was originally credited with the goal but subsequent replaies showed he did not deflect the puck.

The Bellemare line had another strong forechecking shift about six minutes into the period. On the Flyers’ next shift, however, White took a goalie interference penalty at the 6:59 mark.

The Caps went on their third power play.Del Zotto blocked a shot early and led a 2-on-1 rush. With a pass to Couturier taken away, Del Zotto shot and was stopped by Holtby. The Flyers killed off the remainder of the penalty. Mason made one routine save.

With 8:42 left in the period, Tim Peel called Matt Read on an offensive zone interference penalty on Karl Alzner. Washington went to its fourth power play of the game.

During the stoppage, Mason hobbled off to the dressing room and was replaced by Ray Emery. Mason stopped all eight shots he saw in 31:18 of play.

Things went from bad to worse at the 11:58 mark. Del Zotto took a high-sticking minor. The Caps went to a 5-on-3. The Flyers killed off the two-man portion but, with 6:31 left in the period, Ovechkin blasted a shot from the bottom of the left circle past Emery to make it a 1-1 game.

Ovechkin’s 33rd goal of the season was assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov (17th assist) and Bäckström at 13:29.

With 3:07 left in the period, Tom Wilson knocked Bellemare to the ice with heavy (but clean) shoulder check. VandeVelde came over and defended his teammate. No penalties resulted.

As time ticked down to 1:29, Holtby hung onto an Andrew MacDonald point shot through traffic.

Shots in the second period were 7-5 Flyers (15-10 Flyers through two periods). Faceoffs were 7-6 Capitals (19-14 Flyers through two periods). 3RD PERIOD

Neither team generated a shot through the first 2:48. There was some trash talking between the two sides at a stoppage but nothing escalated.

The Flyers retook the lead at 2-1 on a line rush goal. Wayne Simmonds hit the blueline with speed and snapped a wrist shot past Holtby for his 19th goal of the season. Couturier (16th assist) and Matt Read (13th assist) got the assists at 3:50. The play started with a good play along the defensive wall by Read to start the rush the other way.

Emery made a good save on a right-circle wrister off the cycle by Kuznetsov at the 5:00 mark. It was the third shot Emery had seen since replacing Mason.

With 13:13 left, Holtby fought off a VandeVelde shot through a Bellemare screen in front. The shot was the Flyers’ fifth of the period and 20th of the game.

Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty on MacDonald with 12:40 left in the third period. The play seemed a bit embellished. Early in the power play, Schultz made his second block of the game on an Ovechin one-timer. The Flyers killed off the penalty.

With time ticking down to 5:33, there was a stoppage of play with Kuznetsov down on the ice in the Caps’ defensive zone for about 10 seconds until Washington got the puck. The trainer came out to assist him but he went off on his own power back to the bench.

Emery stopped a blast by Ovechkin from the deep right slot with 3:30 left to play.

With 1:13 left, Wilson took a stupid boarding minor penalty on Read on the right corner to put the Flyers on the power play the rest of the game. There were also off-setting roughing penalties on Simmonds (defending Read) and Wilson. With Holtby pulled for an extra attacked, Voracek scored into an empty net to seal the game.

Voracek’s 18th goal of the season was officially a power play empty net goal at 19:23. The assists went to Brayden Schenn (21st assist) and Giroux (38th of the season, second of the game).

Shots in the third period were 10-4 Flyers (24-14 Flyers for the game). Faceoffs were 16-8 Flyers (35-22 Flyers for the game). POSTGAME NOTES AND QUOTES

* With the win, the Flyers raised their road record to 8-15-4 and their season mark to 23-22-8.

* The Flyers have taken 11 of a possible 12 points (5-0-1) in their last six games.

* In the days leading up to this game, the Flyers practiced with a line that had Scott Laughton centering Ryan White and Wayne Simmonds. In the game, Simmonds skated on Sean Couturier’s right wing, with Matt Read on the left. R.J. Umberger moved to the Laughton line.

* For the game, the Flyers attempted 49 shots (25 on goal, 14 blocked, 10 missed). The Capitals attempted 41 (14 on goal, 16 blocked, 21 missed).

* Per Flyers’ broadcast and media services manager Brian Smith, the Caps’ 14 shots for the game was the fewest the Flyers have allowed since holding the New Jersey Devils to 13 shots in a 1-0 road win on Nov. 2, 2013. The last time the Flyers held the Capitals to 14 or fewer shots was on January 25, 2004 when they held the Caps to 13 shots in a 4-1 win at Verizon Center. The Flyers’ franchise record for fewest shots against in a game is seven; set against the Capitals on Feb. 12, 1978 at the Spectrum (a 4-1 Flyers win with Bernie Parent in goal).

* After the game, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said that the team would recall Anthony Stolarz from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms because he is the only other healthy goalie under NHL contract. Rob Zepp had to be helped off the ice on Saturday night with a right leg injury. Connor Knapp and Martin Ouellette are on AHL contract and, in order to recall one, their contract would have to be converted into a two-way NHL contract. Hextall conceded that the 21-year-old Stolarz is “probably not” ready for the NHL.

* Steve Mason, who was limping in the locker room after the game and did not speak to the media, will return to Philadelphia to be re-examined tomorrow. Hextall said the issue was a lower-body injury that he did not believe were related to Mason’s previous back (late December) and right knee (early January) issues that kept him out of the lineup for stretches.

* Hextall said that he does not presently expect Mason to be available for the remainder of the team’s road trip over the next week but that more would be known tomorrow.

* Scott Laughton said after the game that he thanked Matt Niskanen for obliging him with a fight and respected the Washington defenseman for giving him a chance to settle the score from the last time the clubs played.

* Mark Streit on the team’s performance: “I thought the whole game was played really well, especially defensively. It was a tough moment losing Steve [Mason]….. Razor came in and did an unbelievable job. He made some key saves, especially on the PK. He had a really good game and overall battled hard. It was a good team effort.”

* Craig Berube on the team defense: “Definitely a solid 60 minutes. It was a real good defensive game….. Offensively we could have done more, but I thought they were solid all-around moving the puck. Our play without the puck was great.”

* Berube on what he liked about the penalty kill: “Pressure. I thought we did a good job pressuring. We did a good job up ice and then our D did a good job at getting out on Ovechkin.”

* Ray Emery on whether he’s ever had to enter a game in relief with his team down on a 5-on-3 penalty kill: “I don’t think I’ve ever done that before, but its part of the job. You’ve got to stay ready. You don’t want to see Mase go down but I’ve done it before so you just go in there and work hard.”

* Jakub Voracek’s late goal placed him back in a tie for the NHL’s Art Ross Trophy with Chicago’s Patrick Kane. The Chicago superstar temporarily pulled ahead earlier in the day.

* The Flyers road trip continues on Tuesday in Montreal and Friday in Columbus before concluding next Sunday in Buffalo. The team will practice in Montreal on Monday, fly to Columbus on Wednesday, practice in Columbus on Thursday, travel directly to Buffalo with a practice on Friday and a game on Sunday. The club will take a complete off day after the Buffalo game before the Blue Jackets come to Philly on Feb. 17.

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