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In Flyers' shootout loss to Capitals, emotion returns, goalie question remains

IT WAS A NIGHT when the Flyers were supposed to answer their seemingly franchise-old question. And they ended up back at square one.

Flyers' goalie Sergei Bobrovsky looks up after allowing a first-period goal to the Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Flyers' goalie Sergei Bobrovsky looks up after allowing a first-period goal to the Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)Read more

IT WAS A NIGHT when the Flyers were supposed to answer their seemingly franchise-old question.

And they ended up back at square one.

Coach Peter Laviolette wanted to test rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with his first playoff-type game. He failed. Bobrovsky lasted just 21 minutes, 22 seconds, allowing three goals on nine shots, and was yanked in favor of Brian Boucher.

Boucher, truthfully, wasn't much better.

Boucher faced just 10 shots over the final 38-plus minutes of regulation - and he allowed a goal at the one moment the Flyers could least afford it, after they had clawed back from a 3-0 deficit in their biggest game of the season to take a 4-3 lead.

The positives were aplenty for the Flyers. Just not in net.

After Marcus Johansson fired the game-tying goal with just 3:19 to play in the third period, sending the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Eastern Conference to overtime for the fourth time in four games this season, Boucher came up empty in the shootout.

Mike Hendricks, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Semin skated in alone on Boucher and all three scored in succession.

"From a team standpoint, I think it was a good point," Boucher said. "From a personal standpoint, I'm disappointed. I didn't make any saves in the shootout. For that, I feel like I could have [done] more."

For the Flyers, who collected one point in the thrilling, 5-4 overtime loss, it was just one of those nights. Hard to explain, difficult to swallow, but easy to see the silver lining.

"Sometimes that happens," Boucher said. "But the guys should feel real good about the way they played. It's such a long season and there are nights that don't go your way and nights that go great."

For Laviolette, who was looking to not only manufacture playoff-type experience for Bobrovsky but was also banking on a solid answer for his playoff goaltender one way or the other, the question hangs in the air every bit now as it did 24 hours ago.

Neither goaltender distinguished himself.

"Tonight, 'Bob' probably wishes he had a couple of those back," Laviolette said. "Tonight, he gave up some opportunities. But his year has been good. These are all going to be tough games."

And the Flyers didn't distinguish themselves in the standings. Thanks to that single point gained in overtime, the Flyers were able to maintain a lead over Washington in the standings. Now, the Flyers are one point up on the Capitals - who were missing stars Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green - with two games in hand.

The Flyers have 10 games remaining compared to Washington's eight.

After watching the Capitals spring to a 3-0 lead, the Flyers refused to roll over. Instead, they battled back and chipped away at the lead, mainly thanks to Andreas Nodl.

Nodl factored in all three of the Flyers' comeback goals, even notching the game-tying tally from his knees in front of Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth.

"He was all over the ice," Danny Briere said of Nodl. "Hitting, finishing checks, scoring, passing. He was doing it all. That was a great game and their line got us going."

With a lively crowd of 19,893 packed in the Wells Fargo Center, last night was a reminder of the Flyers' magic that captivated Philadelphia for nearly 3 full months last spring. No mountain - not a three-goal deficit to the hottest team in the NHL - seemed too big to climb.

The Flyers showed a kind of emotion in their comeback that hadn't existed in the past 3 weeks. It took a three-goal hole, but the switch was finally flipped.

"I think it's always going to be with us, that we believe we can come back in any game and never quit," Briere said. "They got some fluky goals. We kept coming. It was fun to see the character.

"There's a lot of positives coming out of that game. It's the type of game we want to play coming down the stretch."

Laviolette said he did not need to say much to his team during the first intermission in order to wake the echoes of last season.

"I thought that the guys have been through a lot," Laviolette said. "They know how to play in order to be successful. If you put the first period behind us and you just focus on the second period, we set it up for the third period."

The setup was there. The intensity was palpable. And the grit, with whack after whack at loose pucks and bone-crushing hit after blocked shot continuously visible, was commendable.

But there is that one question mark still out there. It's the same question mark that has been there forever - the same one that no player seems willing to address.

"It happens," captain Mike Richards said of the goaltending. "It's going to happen during the course of a season. [Bobrovsky] had a couple of bad bounces. I've had a number of bad games this year. We have confidence in him."

For both goaltenders, the battle rages on. Now, with just 10 games left on the docket, the finish line is in sight.

"It's about bouncing back," Boucher said, "and having a short-term memory."

Slap shots

Andrej Meszaros played 29 minutes, collected six hits, recorded five blocked shots, and directed 10 pucks toward Washington's net. Six of his shots were blocked. He also threw what might have been the Flyers' biggest check of the season in the third period on Jason Chimera . . . Kris Versteeg's goal was his first since March 5.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at Follow him on Twitter at