WASHINGTON — The Flyers set an NHL record Tuesday night at Capital One Arena.
The bad news: It was an unwanted record — seven goalies used in a team’s first 43 games.
The worse news: The new goalie, the well-traveled Mike McKenna, couldn’t stop the Flyers' spiral as they lost their eighth straight, falling to the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, 5-3, at Capital One Arena.
McKenna, 35, played decently as he became the seventh Flyers goalie to perform this season. The St. Louis native stopped 21 of 25 shots and allowed one bad goal as the Flyers fell to 0-6-2 in their last eight games. The longest winless streak in franchise history is 12 straight (0-8-4) in 1999.
“He made some big saves and bailed us out,” center Sean Couturier said. “It just sucks that we gave up some easy chances against him, like that breakaway goal — a stupid play from me and G [Claude Giroux that led to the chance]. Those are the kind of mistakes that are kind of haunting us right now. We’re forcing things and it’s not going our way.”
Washington’s T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana (two goals, assist) scored a little over two minutes apart in the second period, turning a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead. Oshie scored on a deflection. Vrana outraced Couturier and beat McKenna on a breakaway.
“I didn’t think we gave up a lot, but what we gave up was wrong. It shouldn’t happen,” interim coach Scott Gordon said. “We gave up enough of those wrong plays that they were able to cash in.”
Vrana made it 4-1 on McKenna’s misplay, firing a pass from the goal line that caromed off the goalie’s pads and into the net while the Caps were on a power play. The Caps outscored the Flyers, 3-0, in the middle period.
“The second period, we just stopped skating,” Flyers winger Jake Voracek said. “You play 40 minutes, you’re not going to win many games.”
The Flyers have been outscored by a 15-1 second-period margin during their eight-game losing streak.
With their goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Wayne Simmonds scored his 200th goal as a Flyer, cutting the deficit to 4-2 with 3:27 left in regulation, and Giroux made it 4-3 with 6.7 seconds left.
Oshie added an empty-net goal with 2.1 seconds to go.
The Flyers outshot the Caps by 40-26, dominated the faceoff circle by winning 70 percent of the draws, and had a 23-15 advantage in hits. But when the outcome was still in doubt, the offense struggled to finish. Again.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Couturier said.
Only three other teams in NHL history have ever used seven goalies in a season. No team has ever used eight.
“I felt like myself. You just try to get your bearings a little bit and sort things out, but hockey is hockey,” McKenna said. “It definitely wasn’t my best game.”
McKenna especially didn’t like Vrana’s pass that turned into a bad-angle goal, giving the Caps a 4-1 lead.
“I went to rotate back to get to the backdoor shot, and the pass went right through my crease and I turned it right into my own net, off the bottom of my pad," he said. “I didn’t get rotated quick enough there. I scored on myself.”
The Caps scored on their first shot after a defensive breakdown gave them a two-on-one. Tom Wilson got behind defenseman Ivan Provorov and converted a goalmouth pass from Vrana, giving the Capitals a 1-0 lead with 15:39 left in the first.
A little more than five minutes later, the Flyers answered. Oskar Lindblom intercepted Michal Kempny’s pass, sped into the offensive zone and found Voracek, who ripped a one-timer from the high slot past Phoenix Copley, the latest backup goalie to beat the Flyers.
In the first period, the Flyers' passing was much crisper and the forecheck more active than in Monday’s listless 3-0 home loss to St. Louis. They had an 11-4 shots advantage in the opening period.
“In the first, we had a great answer to their first goal, and I thought we had some momentum, and the second period got us again‚” said defenseman Radko Gudas, who had four hits, including a jarring check on Nic Dowd that triggered Gudas’ fight with Devante Smith-Pelly. “We can’t just be throwing pucks away. It’s really frustrating.”