IT TOOK SIX GOALS, mocking chants on home ice and a fiery intermission speech from Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren.
With 14:29 remaining in the third period, the Flyers finally reached their boiling point.
Wayne Simmonds dropped the gloves with Tom Wilson, and Flyers backup Ray Emery immediately knew where he was heading.
Emery left the crease and flew down the ice to take on Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who wanted nothing to do with the fisticuffs.
"He didn't want to fight," Emery said. "I basically said, 'Protect yourself.' He didn't really have much of a choice."
A full-on donnybrook ensued, with helmets and gloves littering the ice. Brayden Schenn was chucking knuckles with Alexander Urbom. Vinny Lecavalier was trading blows with Steve Olesky. The Capitals' bench was incensed with Holtby, pitching a shutout no less, being forced into fighting Emery.
By the time Holtby was finally able to pick his head up, after being pounded in the corner by Emery against his will, his forehead was swollen and covered in welts. The Wells Fargo Center crowd was on its feet for the first time.
More than 150 penalty minutes weren't going to change the score. The only thing pumped up about the Flyers, as they boarded their bus to North Jersey for tonight's game against the Devils, was their adrenaline and not their place in the standings.
The Flyers were embarrassed last night, 7-0, by a Capitals team playing without leading scorer Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has missed only 22 games in his career, but the Flyers have been blown out twice (8-2 loss on Dec. 4, 2009) when facing an Ovechkin-less Washington team.
It all came under the watchful eye of Flyers chairman Ed Snider, who was at the game.
"We as a group, it was a frustrating night," Emery said. "The fans are frustrated and we don't accept that. I think the frustration shows sometimes that way. We all kind of grew up playing hockey and sometimes that happens. You don't want anyone to get hurt, but we don't take losses like that."
It was the most lopsided defeat on a home-ice surface in the NHL this season. Coach Craig Berube said he pulled starter Steve Mason, who ultimately had to re-enter, because he was looking for a spark. It was probably required out of pity.
To add injury to insult, Flyers forward Steve Downie was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital long after the game ended. It was Downie's first game as a Flyer since being reacquired on Thursday from Colorado in a trade for Max Talbot.
Downie was carted out of the Wells Fargo Center on a stretcher.
For the most part, the Flyers were mum about Downie's injury, except to say he was being taken to the hospital for evaluation and observation. Holmgren confirmed Downie suffered a concussion. Downie asked Aaron Volpatti to halt their fight in the second period after being clocked with two consecutive left hands in a row. He skated off the ice on his own power.
With his fight, Downie showed more than most of the rest of the Flyers. Fans in the near sellout crowd made it clear they won't accept lifeless, losing hockey that way, either. During the second period, the crowd in unison chanted "Fi-re Holm-gren" toward Holmgren.
Holmgren, who has been at his post since October 2006, sat stoically in the Flyers' executive suite for most of the period and did not speak to his colleagues. After the period ended, he flew out of the suite and raced downstairs to address his team.
"That stays in the room," Berube said, when asked what the conversation was like.
Holmgren addressed the media postgame and said he didn't blame the fans for their frustration.
"I can't blame the fans, we're as frustrated as they are," Holmgren said. "If I was sitting in the stands, I might not be chanting, but I might be thinking the same thing. It's part of the business."
Like everyone else, Holmgren noted how the Flyers wilted away after Washington scored on their second shot of the game. They added three more goals in just 6:21 to break it open into a 4-0 game. From there, the fireworks exploded.
A former fighter himself, Holmgren said he did had no issue with the Flyers' response. Since they couldn't beat the Capitals on the scoreboard, they tried the only way this franchise knows how. In addition to Downie, Lecavalier suffered a facial injury and will miss game action.
"When you're getting slapped around like that," Holmgren said, "it's a response."
Berube said that response is better than none at all. "They care," He said. "They're frustrated. That's basically what it boils down to."
Perhaps even more telling than that, Berube sent captain Claude Giroux - who still does not have a goal this season - to the penalty box to serve the 4-minute penalty Emery earned.