There was a sequence during Wednesday’s game in Washington where Ivan Provorov delivered a solid body check on Alexander Ovechkin, which Ovechkin did not care for.
Ovie, the greatest Russian player in NHL history, was miffed. Who is this guy — this fellow Russian — to hit me? The Capitals’ captain spent the rest of that shift taking little slashes at Provorov, like a deli slicer cutting roast beef.
But Provorov got the last laugh when, later in the game, he skated past Ovechkin and fired in a critical goal.
It’s the little things.
On Thursday night, Provorov, having already scored the game’s first goal against Carolina, sprinted in from the blue line to join another rush which forced the Hurricanes to take a penalty. The Flyers didn’t score on that power play, but they gained momentum. Claude Giroux was stopped by Carolina rookie goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on an excellent chance.
But eighteen seconds after the power play ended, with Carolina still regrouping, Michael Raffl scored the game’s second goal on a nice pass from Tyler Pitlick.
Provorov played a team-high 21-minutes, 53-seconds on Thursday. He notched his 13th goal of the season, had three hits and two blocked shots.
“He’s always been excellent, but you can see that next step that he’s taken this year,” teammate Sean Couturier observed. “He’s probably one of the really underrated D-men around the league.”
Provorov played a total of 48-minutes, 9-seconds in the back-to-back nights as the Flyers climbed into a virtual tie with the Capitals for first place in the Metro Division. (Washington holds the tiebreaker with one more overtime win.)
It’s the first time since early last season that Provorov has scored in consecutive games.
“As a player, you always want to score. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it makes you feel good,” he said. “The most important thing is that we got the two points.”
General manager Chuck Fletcher has made a number of terrific moves since the end of last season. The acquisitions get the most headlines, whether it’s Kevin Hayes scoring a shorthanded goal or Matt Niskanen coolly clearing a puck out of danger. Even Derek Grant, brought in from Anaheim at the trade deadline, has five points in his last three games.
But two moves that don’t get as much attention were the signings of restricted free agents Travis Konecny (six years, $33 million) and Provorov (six years, $40.5 million). Konecny is 22. Provorov just turned 23.
“He’s a young defenseman with still some growth to go," coach Alain Vigneault said. “He’s definitely one of the top-end Ds in the league in my estimation.”
After going four games without a point this season, there’s a good chance Ovechkin would agree. Though he’s probably not happy about that, either.