WASHINGTON — The surging Flyers moved into a playoff spot Sunday afternoon for the first time since Nov. 10.
Twenty-seven seconds into overtime, Travis Konecny scored from the high slot after making a slick move around defenseman John Carlson, lifting the Flyers to a 2-1 win over powerful Washington at Capital One Arena.
Konecny’s shot appeared to deflect off the Capitals’ T.J. Oshie, sending the Flyers to their seventh win in their last eight games.
The Flyers were nine points out of a playoff spot when they lost their 10th straight on Dec. 2. Since then, they are 15-5-1.
“We’re just finding ways to win hockey games,” Konecny said after his team swept a three-games-over-a-four-day period for the third time. “They’re tough games to win when you’re playing against good teams, especially tonight. It’s a hard road game coming in here knowing they rested yesterday. We’re keeping things simple and we’re just trusting our abilities.”
The Flyers climbed into the first wild-card spot pending the New York Rangers’ result in Los Angeles on Sunday night. A Rangers win would put the Flyers in the second wild-card spot.
The Flyers are just two points behind New Jersey, the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division, and seven behind first-place Washington, a physical and talented team.
“It definitely says something about our character,” Konecny said of the team’s six-week surge.
“We have to keep looking forward and not looking at teams chasing us,” said Brian Elliott, who made 27 saves and was superb in the nets.
It was a gritty win because the Flyers were playing their second game in as many days and looked fatigued in the early stages of the third period before getting a second wind.
“You’ve got to push through it and fight for your chances,” said Sean Couturier, who helped set up the game-winner — the first overtime goal of Konecny’s two-year career.
Konecny said “there’s that vibe in the locker room right now that we really want that playoff opportunity.”
It was the second time in the last three games that the unit of Konecny, Ivan Provorov, and Couturier helped create the winner on the first shift of overtime. Couturier scored 18 seconds into overtime Thursday to beat Toronto, 3-2.
Playing with strong defensive players in the three-on-three overtime, Konecny said, gives him more freedom to take some offensive chances.
“I know those two are definitely on the defensive side of things, and Cootsy makes sure I know that every time,” Konecny said. “… It just seems to be clicking now.”
The Flyers looked tired in the first part of the third period but gained some momentum after Oshie pulled down Scott Laughton to give the visitors a power play with 11 minutes, 40 seconds left in regulation.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby made a pair of keys saves, however, to make the Flyers 0 for their last 12 on the power play, including 0 for 3 on Sunday.
With about three minutes left in regulation, Elliott robbed Jay Beagle after he redirected Matt Niskanen’s point shot, keeping the game tied at 1-1.
Alex Ovechkin, atoning for a defensive mistake earlier in the period, scored on a power-play one-timer from the top of the left circle with 15.8 seconds left in the second, knotting the score at 1-1.
With 13:38 remaining in the second, Michael Raffl, left alone by Ovechkin in the left circle, scored his ninth goal to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Val Filppula set up the goal with a perfect feed from behind the net, and Raffl whipped a shot that caromed off Holtby’s pad and beat him to the short side.
“Awesome backhand pass by Fil there,” Raffl said. “He was patient and I found a way to beat Holtby.”
Raffl has nine goals in his last 26 games – after not scoring in his first 21. He has scored all of his goals since being moved up from the fourth line.
It was the teams’ first meeting since Oct. 14, when the Flyers played their home opener and routed the Capitals, 8-2.
When you look at where the Flyers were when they lost 10 straight, it’s pretty remarkable that they are just seven points behind the Caps and have a game in hand.
“We can pat ourselves on the back a little bit,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said of the Flyers’ turnaround, “but obviously we can’t get too complacent.”