Five quick observations from the Flyers’ first game since the all-star break, a 5-3 loss Wednesday in Washington:
Shaky goalie Michal Neuvirth failed to cover Lars Eller’s corner shot and rookie Chandler Stephenson knocked in the rebound, enabling the Caps to get to within 2-1 early in the second period. Just 47 seconds later, a bad line change and poor defensive positioning by Brandon Manning allowed Stephenson to go in on a breakaway. He didn’t miss.
The Flyers dominated the first period and built a 2-0 lead, but 47 seconds of careless play and they were in a 2-2 second-period tie.
Neuvirth, who missed a practice during the week because of a stomach virus, did not look sharp all night and was replaced by Alex Lyon with 10 minutes, 54 seconds left in regulation and the Flyers facing a 5-2 deficit. For Lyon, it was his NHL debut. He could get Thursday’s start in New Jersey.
As for Neuvirth, he has allowed five goals in each of the last two games.
While Neuvirth seemed out of sync, Caps all-star goalie Braden Holtby made two game-turning saves on point-blank shots by Claude Giroux early in the second period. Holtby outplayed Neuvirth from D.C. to Doylestown.
By the way, Giroux is fifth in the NHL in points, but hasn’t scored a goal in eight straight games.
Manning and PK struggle
It was not the best of nights for Manning.
The 27-year-old defenseman allowed Stephenson to get behind him on the aforementioned breakaway to tie the game at 2-all. Later in the second period, Andre Burakovsky got position on Manning in front and was able to redirect Eller’s pass past Neuvirth while the Capitals were on a power play.
The sequence demonstrated why the Flyers are 28th in the 31-team NHL on the penalty kill. In the third period, T.J. Oshie added another power-play goal, his first tally in 14 games. That made the Caps 2 for 3 on the PP.
If first impressions mean anything, moving Nolan Patrick between Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek is going to pay dividends for the Flyers. Patrick, the No. 2 overall selection in last June’s draft, scored on his first shift and later added an assist.
Just 1:18 into the game, Patrick took a pass from Simmonds on a two on one and went forehand-backhand to beat Holtby and give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. It was the eighth straight game the Capitals had allowed the first goal and it was Patrick’s fourth goal of his rookie season.
Coach Dave Hakstol moved Patrick to the second line in practice this week, hoping it would jump-start his offense if he was between two high-quality wingers.
Lately, Patrick has been “much more comfortable having the puck,” Hakstol said earlier in the week. “That’s one of the biggest developments we’ve seen in his game. Early on, there were times I thought he was just trying to make a safe play and move the puck to somebody else.”
Travis Konecny continued his torrid pace, scoring a goal for the fifth straight game to give the Flyers a 2-0 first-period lead. Konecny scored on a rebound of Sean Couturier’s shot.
Give Couturier credit for putting on the brakes and not colliding with Holtby. Instead, it was Caps defenseman Christian Djoos who bumped into the goaltender.
Since moving to the top line, Konecny has seven goals in 15 games. With 32 games left, he has 11 goals, matching the total of his rookie year.