April 20, 2016
With the type of year that these Philadelphia Flyers put together, digging out of a huge early hole to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the season’s final weekend, a loss on Wednesday wouldn’t have felt quite right. After showing great resiliency battling back all year, these Flyers didn't seem like a group that would get swept out of the first round without putting up much of a fight.
There will be a Game 5 on Friday in the nation’s capital, after all. Facing elimination, the Orange and Black hung on to defeat the Washington Capitals, 2-1, on Wednesday night in South Philly.
"It’s a 'never say die' attitude over here," Wayne Simmonds said. "We’re fighting for our lives right now. We’re going to be fighting for our lives every single game."
In a series that has been dominated by Washington’s special teams, the Flyers flipped the script in Game 4. On the man advantage early in first period, Shayne Gostisbehere (celebrating his 23rd birthday), blasted a one-timer from Claude Giroux past Braden Holtby at 5:51 that certainly raised the noise level in the Wells Fargo Center crowd a few notches:
After allowing the Caps to go an obscene 5-9 on the power play in Game 3, the Flyers rebounded mostly by doing a solid job of staying out of the penalty box. They held Washington to 0 for 2 on the power play.
"That’s quite a difference against that power play unit when you compare going out having to kill two or three vs six in game one and nine the other night," Dave Hakstol said after his first career NHL playoff win. "That’s the biggest adjustment.”
While Gostisbehere’s slap shot was a familiar sight, the Flyers’ second goal came from a very unlikely source: his partner on the blue line. On another one-timer from the point, Andrew MacDonald scored the second goal of the night by a defenseman who spent time in Lehigh Valley this season.
It was MacDonald’s second goal in 32 games with the big club on the year:
There were some tense moments in the third period for the Flyers, who saw the ice tilt in their direction after T.J. Oshie scored at 2:38. Washington carried almost all of the play, outshooting the Flyers 12-4 in the final 20 minutes.
"I wasn’t worried," goaltender Michal Neuvirth said. "I was just going minute by minute, I was enjoying the game. The guys did an awesome job in front of me."
Earlier in the game, Scott Laughton was involved in a very scary situation. The 21-year-old Flyers forward lost an edge while battling with Caps defenseman John Carlson near Braden Holtby's net. Carlson pushed Laughton into the boards (and there wasn't anything dirty about the play) behind the net, an area he didn't get up from for minutes. Laughton regained consciousness and appeared to have use of his hands, but he was taken off on a stretcher and sent to Jefferson Hospital. He is staying there overnight, but all tests were negative.
After a strong Flyers start, the play took the air out of the building
'I think the next couple shifts were a little tough," Claude Giroux said. "When that kind of play happens, it’s really tough to kind of stay focused. We really hope he’s all right."
Inserted into the lineup for a struggling Steve Mason, Neuvirth was very sharp, stopping 31 of Washington’s 32 shots. The backup netminder made a huge save on Tom Wilson in the third period:
After this performance, expect Neuvirth to get the starting nod in between the pipes for Game 5. Winning in Washington will be a tall task against these Capitals, but that conversation is best served for tomorrow. With their backs against the wall at home, the Flyers got the job done and will live to fight on another day.
"Tonight is one win," Hakstol said. "It’s nothing more special than that, but it means we come back to the rink tomorrow."
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann