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Flyers find way to control Capitals' comeback

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- It's been almost four months since Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux finally scored his first goal of the 2013-14 NHL season. He hasn't slowed down since.

Giroux had his second straight two-goal, one-assist game when the Flyers held on to defeat the Washington Capitals 6-4 Wednesday, sweeping the home-and-home and winning a third straight game.

Jakub Voracek scored two goals, and Michael Raffl and Steve Downie had one each for the Flyers. Steve Mason made 21 saves for Philadelphia, which is 8-2-0 in its past 10 games.

A big reason for that recent success has been Giroux, who has eight goals and nine assists in that span. Giroux's linemates also have been big contributors; Voracek has four goals and four assists, and Scott Hartnell has three goals and six assists.

In 48 games since scoring Nov. 9 against the Edmonton Oilers, Giroux has 23 goals and 57 points; in his first 15 games, he had zero goals and seven assists.

"They lead the way," Raffl said of the top line. "Those are our best players. When they have a good night, you see it in the whole team, everybody responding to it and trying to play up to their level."

After playing at a top level through two periods, the Flyers nearly fell flat in the third when the Capitals mounted a comeback.

The Capitals were held to eight shots in the first two periods and trailed 4-1, then scored three times on 17 shots in the third to turn the game into a nail-biter.

"I think we played really bad," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "The first two periods were embarrassing from our side. We didn't have one pass that was right and then they were up 4-0. We got closer to them, but we lost this game in the first two periods."

Alex Ovechkin finished with a goal and an assist, and Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich scored. Washington went 3-for-4 on the power play after going 0-for-6 against the Flyers on Sunday.

Ovechkin made it 4-2 on his League-high 44th goal of the season at 6:35. With Downie serving a penalty, Backstrom held the puck deep on the right side of the Philadelphia zone. He found a seam and rifled a pass to Ovechkin in the left circle, and as quickly as the pass arrived, Ovechkin one-timed it past Mason for his League-leading 18th power-play goal.

Brouwer got the Capitals within 4-3 when Washington outworked the Flyers in the Philadelphia zone and Jack Hillen zipped a pass from the right wall to Brouwer open in the slot, where he slammed it past Mason at 9:25.

The Flyers were able to breathe a brief sigh of relief when Voracek finished a nice feed from Hartnell with a wrist shot from above the hash marks at 11:51, but Flyers defenseman Mark Streit took a penalty 10 seconds later, and Washington pulled within 5-4 when Laich redirected Mike Green's shot from the right point for his seventh goal of the season with 6:00 left.

Downie closed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 51.9 seconds remaining.

"We just ... not stopped playing but stopped attacking, getting into the offensive zone, getting pucks on net, making plays," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "When you're not doing that, they've got the puck. ... We're talking about being a more consistent hockey team. Not getting too high, not getting too low, just come out and play our game for 60 minutes."

The Flyers played what could have been their best two periods of the season. They led 4-1 and were outshooting the Capitals 23-8 through 40 minutes.

"It was good hockey," Berube said. "We were intense, we were quick, we were on things. We had everybody going."

The first period ended with the Flyers leading 2-0 on goals 1:34 apart by Giroux and Voracek.

Giroux's 22nd goal of the season was first. Matt Read lobbed a pass from the Philadelphia end into the neutral zone that Hillen got to, but Sean Couturier arrived and bumped him off the puck. Giroux jumped on the loose puck and streaked around Ovechkin through the right side of the Washington zone. He pulled it around a lunging poke check attempt by Holtby and scored into an empty net at 6:48.

Voracek made it 2-0 13 seconds into the Flyers' first power play. Washington won the faceoff after Brouwer was called for slashing, but Voracek held in Karl Alzner's clearing attempt at the right point. He passed to Wayne Simmonds at the goal line, and Simmonds then spun it behind the net to Giroux on the wall on the left side. As the defense converged on Giroux, he whipped the puck across the ice to Voracek, who took a step toward the middle of the ice and fired a low, hard shot through traffic that beat Holtby at 8:22.

Giroux's second goal of the game made it 3-0 at 5:26. Green was bumped from behind by Hartnell and turned over the puck just to the right of the Washington net. Giroux jumped on the loose puck and chipped it over Holtby's glove before the goalie could set himself.

Raffl made it 4-0 after a Holtby turnover and the Capitals' inability to clear the puck from the defensive zone against the Flyers' fourth line. Newly acquired defenseman Andrew MacDonald worked the puck to Luke Schenn at the left point, and his shot went off Raffl in the slot at 11:52.

"Real disappointing," Ward said. "I don’t know what to say on the start, just a couple of mistakes that we made obviously and they gained some momentum from it. We know they usually come out hard; we just didn’t match that intensity.”

Holtby was pulled after allowing four goals on 18 shots. He was replaced by Philipp Grubauer, who was recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League after the Capitals traded backup goalie Michal Neuvirth to the Buffalo Sabres earlier Wednesday as part of the trade for goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Halak will join the team Thursday for its game at the Boston Bruins.

Grubauer finished with 10 saves on 11 shots.

Washington got on the board on Ward's power-play goal. Mason couldn't control a puck dumped behind the net, and as it rolled along the wall on the left side of the Philadelphia zone, Jason Chimera chipped it to Ovechkin at the point. He worked it over to Green at the right point, and Ward got a piece of Green's low shot through traffic to redirect it past Mason for his 19th of the season at 14:06.

After taking one point in four with the Flyers and heading into a tough game Thursday, Ward said the Capitals will look back to these final 20 minutes for inspiration.

"Hopefully we carry that over into the next game," he said. "Try to be as much positive as you can, but yeah, we definitely showed a little bit of a work ethic towards the end, and hopefully that leads into [Thursday]."

Philadelphia also will look to take some good and learn from the bad as it moves forward. The Flyers next play Saturday at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"It just goes down to playing the full 60 minutes," Schenn said. "[Sunday] in Washington we didn't have a good first [period] and this time we didn't have a good third. Once we can string together three good periods, that's when you feel more in control."


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