WASHINGTON -- Two nights earlier, the Flyers played perhaps their worst home game of the season as they dropped a 5-0 decision to New Jersey, the last-place team in the Metropolitan Division.
So, naturally, they routed the Metro’s best team on Saturday night at Capital One Arena.
Flyers 7, Washington Capitals 2.
Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl and James van Riemsdyk scored in a span of 1 minute, 45 seconds early in the second period, sending the Flyers on their way to a stunningly easy win over the powerful Capitals.
“We acknowledged how embarrassing and how bad we were the other night, and we brought one of our best efforts of the season tonight,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “It’s a good sign that we have a lot of character in here.”
Couturier finished with two goals, while Claude Giroux, who ended a 13-game goal drought, had a goal and a pair of assists -- and notched his 800th career point -- as the Flyers moved back into a wild-card playoff spot, pending Carolina’s late game Saturday in Vegas.
Nic Aube-Kubel, a fourth-line right winger, became the first Flyers rookie since 1993 (Eric Lindros) to have a Gordie Howe hat trick: goal, assist, fight.
“Go figure it out. We were able to put seven up tonight and we weren’t able to put up one the last game,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “That’s the beauty of the game.”
The Flyers, 2-0-1 against Washington this season, have points in their last five road games (3-0-2).
Aube-Kubel went around former Flyer Radko Gudas with a slick move and set up Raffl for a one-timer from in close, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead with 17 minutes, 15 seconds left in the second period. Fourteen seconds later, Couturier, taking advantage of a matchup against the Caps’ fourth line, scored on a breakaway to make it 3-1.
“They gave us a couple opportunities and we took advantage of them,” Raffl said.
Van Riemsdyk increased the lead to 4-1 as he deftly tipped in a shot taken by Niskanen with 15:30 to go in the second. Niskanen, acquired for Gudas in the offseason, helped the Caps win the Stanley Cup in 2018, and this was his first game back at Capital One Arena since the trade.
Niskanen received a standing ovation during a video tribute that was played on the scoreboard in the first period.
Giroux downplayed becoming the fourth player to collect his 800th point with the Flyers.
“It’s great, but with where I am in my carer right now, that kind of stuff isn’t a priority,” he said. “But if you’re getting points, there’s a good chance your team is going to have a chance to win.”
Aube-Kubel pounced on a Capitals turnover and snapped home his third goal of the season with 17:02 left in the game, giving the Flyers a 5-1 lead. Less than three minutes later, Travis Konecny (18th goal) redirected a pass from Giroux past Braden Holtby to make it 6-1. Giroux made it 7-1 with a five-on-three goal.
Giroux entered the night goalless in his last 13 games, equaling the longest streak in his NHL career.
For that reason, he went from center back to left wing on a line centered by Couturier.
“Whoever is with Coots seems to get going,” Vigneault said before the game.
Couturier is being called “Dr. Coots” because he fixes ailing scorers, Vigneault said with a smile.
Yet it was Giroux who helped end Couturier’s own goal drought, which had reached eight games. Just 9 seconds after the Flyers started a power play, Giroux went behind the net and fed Couturier for a one-timer from the left circle that beat goalie Braden Holtby, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 4:38 left in the first. (Holtby allowed seven goals on 25 shots before finally being replaced.)
That put Giroux just two power-play assists from equaling Bobby Clarke’s franchise record.
About three minutes after Couturier’s goal, the Capitals took advantage of Brian Elliott’s tripping penalty as T.J. Oshie scored on a one-timer from the right circle with 1:42 to go in the first.
At that point, the Flyers’ penalty kill had allowed five goals in opponents’ last 11 power-play chances over the last four-plus games.
The Flyers’ penalty kill steadied itself and killed off the Caps’ next three power plays while the result was still in doubt. Robert Hagg’s shot-blocking keyed the penalty kill’s success. On one penalty kill, he blocked two Alex Ovechkin blasts.
“He’s a character guy who’s willing to sacrifice his body whenever he can,” Couturier said