WASHINGTON – How will we respond? That was the message in the Flyers locker room on Saturday as they again found themselves in a critical position against the Capitals.
After falling 5-0 to the Devils on Thursday, Philadelphia seized the opportunity to not only rebound from one of the toughest losses of the season, but to continue their playoff push and keep momentum alive.
“There’s not much to say. When you get to this level, you should know when you have one bad loss, you need to regroup and get back to it,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We talked about coming out of bye week, if we lose one, we need to regroup and get the next one, so hopefully it’s something we’re going to do for the rest of the year.”
It’s that mentality that helped the Flyers pull together one of their best overall performances. They dominated Washington at both ends of the ice en route to a commanding 7-2 victory to tie the Hurricanes for the second wild card spot in the East.
Their play was evident of a team that could pose a major threat come April. The Flyers dominated in the face-off circle, winning over 70 percent of their draws, while they also got key performances from critical players – most notable Giroux, who was able to end a four-game scoreless drought, notch his first goal since Jan. 2 and register his 800th career point with a goal and two assists.
[NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin’s chase for 700th goal continues Monday at 7 p.m. ET]
“The win feels the best… and I haven’t been playing that great lately,” Giroux admitted. “t’s good to be able to contribute to a team win and we have to keep it going here.”
Beyond their stars, though, they also got a strong offensive performance from all four lines, from Sean Couturier’s two goals to a Gordie Howe hat trick for Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
Even more impressive was the defense. In his return to Washington since being traded to Philadelphia in the offseason, Matt Niskanen and Robert Hagg – who led the team with four blocked shots — helped lead the blue line put together a wall that shut down Alex Ovechkin, who was held at bay as he approaches 700 career goals, and kept Washington scoreless on three of four power play opportunities.
Brian Elliott also had another strong showing in net, stopping 25 of 27 shots for his third win in five games.
“Really proud of the guys. I think we approached it the exact right way that we needed to,” Niskanen said. “We acknowledged how embarrassing and how bad we were the other night and brought one of our best efforts of the season… that’s a good sign that we have a lot of character in here and something to build on.”
“You’re going to have a game now and then where it doesn’t go your way, you have a stinker – whatever it is – but if you can bounce back and get a couple wins the next time out, that’s a good quality.”
Although the Flyers are tied with Carolina in the standings, the Hurricanes currently hold the tiebreaker, meaning Philly is still looking from the outside in and can’t afford to slow down, with the division race tight and the wild card race even tighter.
“[This] was important… this time of year, you really can’t lose two, three in a row,” Couturier said.
“It’s Saturday night in a tough rink, and we wanted to bring it. I thought we came [to D.C.] with our A-game, you could tell everybody was into it right away,” Elliott added. “That’s what we want to bring every night. It’s tough in an 82-game schedule, but these are the types of games and this time of year that you need to bring it.”
Heading into another tough matchup on Monday against the Panthers – who are in a major playoff push of their own – the Flyers’ mentality stays the same as they look to not only collect points, but maintain the same play and success they’ve shown against top teams so far this season.
“We’re a good team. This is a tough league and there are no bad teams and everybody works hard and everybody prepares,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “We were fortunate we capitalized on some of our looks and got a big game from Giroux and Couturier, so [we’ll] build off that.”
Sammi Silber is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @sammisilber.