Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Flyers' season ends in 1-0 loss to Capitals

Seconds after the game ended, as the Flyers skated toward nearly flawless goalie Michal Neuvirth with their heads bowed, fans at the Wells Fargo Center stood and applauded and chanted.

Seconds after the game ended, as the Flyers skated toward nearly flawless goalie Michal Neuvirth with their heads bowed, fans at the Wells Fargo Center stood and applauded and chanted.

After a loss that ended the Flyers' season.

The orange-clad crowd was saluting the Flyers because they had shown resilience - and promise for their future - by squeaking into the playoffs and taking heavily favored Washington to six first-round games.

The Flyers' valiant upset bid ended with a 1-0 loss, one that wasn't sealed until Karl Alzner blocked Wayne Simmonds' one-timer with six seconds left.

"I'm proud of every single guy in this locker room," Simmonds said. "They pushed it to the limit."

After two consecutive losses, the top-seeded Capitals avoided the ghosts of their playoffs past, winning the hard-fought series, four games to two, and advancing to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.

Braden Holtby's shutout goaltending; Nicklas Backstrom's second-period goal; and the Flyers' inability to convert a two-minute, five-on-three power play keyed Washington's win.

"They're the best team in the league for a reason," said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, mindful that the Caps won the Presidents' Trophy with an NHL-high 120 points this season.

Excluding an empty-net score, the Flyers managed just five goals in the series, an average of 0.83 goals per game.

"We didn't give either goalie enough run support," said winger Brayden Schenn, using a baseball term to describe his team's downfall.

The series emphatically showed general manager Ron Hextall that the Flyers need more scorers, but the players said they benefited from the hard-fought matchup against a team that is favored to win its first Stanley Cup.

"I think it gives everyone a taste of what the playoffs are like and what this building is like in the playoffs," Schenn said. "We're still a young team and we still have a lot to prove, and it was good for us to squeak into the playoffs and get a taste of it."

"We have a great foundation here," said Gostisbehere, one of the league's top rookies this season. "Good things are going to happen."

Early in the third period, a fan held up a sign, directed at the Capitals, that was shown on the scoreboard: "You'll Choke," it read.

But Holtby, who made 26 saves and notched his second shutout of the series, stopped Nick Cousins and Jake Voracek, both from the slot, in the opening 71/2 minutes of the third period, keeping the Caps ahead, 1-0.

With about seven minutes remaining, Chris VandeVelde couldn't convert a juicy rebound in front. Two minutes later, Brandon Manning's point drive went just wide as Holtby was scrambling to get position.

Voracek moved to the top line, and Simmonds dropped down to the second unit in the third period.

Four seconds after a Flyers penalty ended, Backstrom converted a three-on-two after taking a slick pass from Marcus Johansson, giving Washington a 1-0 lead with 11 minutes, 1 second left in the second.

Alex Ovechkin, a dominating player all series, set up the goal by keeping the puck in the zone - he made nice moves to avoid Radko Gudas and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare near the blue line - and feeding Johansson.

The goal ended Neuvirth's shutout streak at 106:21 and was scored 2:29 after the Flyers failed to capitalize on a five-on-three power play, one in which they managed just two shots.

Even though he only played the last three games, Neuvirth was the Flyers' best player in the series. By far. The 28-year-old goalie finished with a .981 save percentage - he stopped 103 of 105 shots - and a 0.67 goals-against average.

The Capitals, coming off an unfathomable 2-0 home loss Friday - they outshot the Flyers, 44-11, but couldn't solve Neuvirth - dominated a scoreless opening period.

Aided by the period's only three penalties, the Caps had a 12-5 shots advantage in the first, and Neuvirth again kept them off the scoreboard.

With 56.3 seconds left in the first, Washington had a five-on-three that carried into the second stanza. Neuvirth (28 saves) was brilliant, and his teammates continually blocked shots.

When the period ended, the sellout crowd gave the Flyers a roaring standing ovation for withstanding the Caps' pressure and keeping the game scoreless.

The Flyers played the series with heavy hearts. Three days before it started, Flyers chairman and cofounder Ed Snider, 83, died after a two-year battle with bladder cancer.

They showed character by winning two straight, and they had some quality attack time in Sunday's final period - outshooting Washington, 11-6 - before falling short.

"I hope," rookie coach Dave Hakstol said, "Mr. Snider is proud."