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April 18, 2016

Capitals 6, Flyers 1: Embarrassing night - on and off ice - as Caps take 3-0 lead

Flyers NHL
041816_Ghost-Caps_AP Matt Slocum/AP

Washington Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov, front, and Philadelphia Flyers' Shayne Gostisbehere collide during the third period.

A night that started so promising for the Philadelphia Flyers turned into a disaster -- and ultimately an embarassment -- as they fell to the Washington Capitals, 6-1, in Game 3 of their first round series.

Michael Raffl scored his first goal of the 2016 playoffs just 57 seconds into the game, sending a crowd that was still buzzing from an incredible pre-game ceremony and touching tribute to late chairman and founder Ed Snider into a full-on frenzy. 

Unfortunately for the Flyers, the air was sucked out of the building less than four minutes later when Marcus Johannson beat Steve Mason to tie the game.

The game remained tied until the 8:50 mark of the second period, when Alexander Ovechkin scored to put the Capitals up 2-1, a lead they would not surrender the rest of the night.

Even with the Flyers trailing, 2-1, entering the third period, there was reason for hope. But not even the Rocky montage played on the big screen at the Wells Fargo Center. Less two minutes into the third, Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Capitals up 3-1. Five minutes later, John Carlson made it 4-1.

And that's when things got ugly. Really, really ugly.

Following a brawl behind the Capitals net -- after Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare lit up Dmitry Orlov -- Ryan White and Radko Gudas were sent off with game misconducts, as was Bellemare, who was also hit with a checking from behind penalty. 

That's when fans began throwing the wristbands given out as part of the pre-game festivites onto the ice. And it wasn't just a few of them. One even threw one directly at Orlov, who just moments early was sprawled out on the ice being looked at by trainers. 

The game had to be stopped and PA announcer Lou Nolan told Philly fans to stop and show some class.

They stopped momentarily, but not for long.

After Ovechkin scored on the ensuing Capitals power play -- and despite Nolan's warning that the Flyers would be penalized if it didn't stop -- the wristbands again began raining down on the ice. As promised, the Flyers were hit with a delay of game penalty assessed to the bench.

Not even the pleas from Wayne Simmonds could stop the fans. 

“I don’t know [what Ed Snider would've thought of the way the game ended]," Simmonds said after the game. "I don't think he would have been too happy with it. Pretty sure he’s not too happy with that obviously. Some of it is self-inflicted. I think the whole fan thing there -- they are understandably upset -- but that can’t happen.”

The Capitals would score again on the fan-generated power play -- a franchise record fifth power play goal of the game -- to make it 6-1 and take a 3-0 lead in the series.

"We take a lot of pride playing in front of our fans," captain Claude Giroux said when asked about the incident. "And we want to play hard, that’s our identity. It’s not fun.”

Others -- like White, who didn't see the wristbands being thrown because he had already been ejcted -- were slightly more understanding.

"I didn’t even know it happened," White said. "I just got told that’s what was going on. I didn’t realize they got warned or whatever. But I mean, whatever. I love the Philly fans. I’d be doing it too."

As for where this loss leaves the Flyers, players tried to remain upbeat despite the events that unfolded on the ice earlier in the evening.

“Is it going to be easy to come back? No," goalie Steve Mason said after the loss. "But the boys in the room -- we’re going to do everything we can to get ourselves back in the series. We just have to get off to a good start here in Game 4.”

They're not quite ready to believe this run is over yet. After all, a few months ago, no one expected them still be playing. Yet, here they are -- for now.

“I think with the first two games, we were in those games," Giroux added. "We just couldn’t get that one goal to kind of be where we wanted to be and Game 4, it’s going to be pretty big for us. Win this one and go back to Washington. We just have to go game-by-game like we’ve been doing for the last three months of the year.

"We were eight points out of the playoffs and we really concentrated on one game at a time and we have to go back to that. We can’t be looking at it like we’re down three-nothing. We just have to go one game at a time and we’re a streaky team. Get one game and you never know what could happen.”

Considering the Flyers have now been outscored 12-2 in three games -- and that the Capitals appear to be distancing themselves more and more each game -- that's quite the glass-half-full attitude from the Flyers captain.

Here are some more observations on the game, although the big story (unfortunately) will be what the fans did late in the third period... 

•    Guess what? The whole getting-a-penalty-called-on-your-team thing wasn't the only example of Flyers fans behaving badly on Monday night.

•  Several fans thought it would be a good idea to yell during the moment of silence for Ed Snider.
•  Fans booed as a woozy Brooks Orpik (more on him later) stumbled to the bench after getting drilled by Ryan White.
•  Before Orpik was injured, a fan was caught on the broadcast taking a picture of, well, you'll see.

•    The Capitals finished the game with five power play goals on nine chances. I know the Flyers are missing Sean Couturier on their penalty kill, but 5-for-9? In the first two games, the Washington was a combined 3-for-8 and fans were panicked about that. Perhaps after this performace they're too depressed to register anything that resembles panic.

•    The Flyers power play, meanwhile, was 0-for-5 in the game and has yet to score in this series (0-for-13). Not going to win too many games with those kinds of numbers.

•    Monday was not the best night for goalie Steve Mason. Sure, five of the six goals he allowed came with his team down a man, but he only face 27 shots all night and six of them ended up in the back of the net.

“It’s definitely up there [among my toughest loses ever]," Mason said after the game. "The entire third period, it was a tough one to go through. The penalty killers were put through a pretty good workout and all the credit in the world to the guys blocking shots out there. It’s not easy.”

Think all those games in a row down the stretch might finally be catching up with him?

•    This series, as a whole, hasn't been great for the Flyers' top line (Giroux, Simmonds and Jake Voracek). They have just one point between them against the Capitals in three games -- Voracek's goal in Game 2 -- and combined for just five shots on goal Monday night. 

“They haven’t been able to finish over the last part of this game," Hakstol said. "The 5-on-5 battle has been pretty good throughout the series. Those 3 haven’t been able to finish either 5-on-5 or on the power plays so I don’t know if they’re getting neutralized, the puck just hasn’t been going in the net for them.”

Aside from Washington's ridiculous numbers on the power play, the stat of the series so far may be this: Caps goalie Braden Holtby has as many points as the Flyers' top line. He was credited with an assist on Kuznetsov's third period goal.

•    Brooks Orpik may not be back for Game 4 after this hit from Ryan White.

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Orpik has an upper-body injury but wouldn't elaborate on his status moving forward.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin