WASHINGTON -- In the early part of this uneven season, the Flyers were the team that hit the snooze button a few too many times. Starts of games were an issue, rarely emerging with a lead, but second periods were their savior.
Lately, that formula has been reversed, and over their last two lopsided losses to members of the NHL elite, early momentum has given way to messy second periods in which they have allowed three goals. Including Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Washington, in which a 2-0 first-period lead was erased in 47 ugly seconds, the Flyers have allowed 16 second-period goals over their last 11 games. Four times over their last seven games, they have allowed two goals or more in the second period.
The Capitals erased the feel-good of Nolan Patrick's fourth goal of the season, which came just 1:18 into the game and underlined the continued ascent of his game. Travis Konecny made it 2-0 at 7:50 by jamming in a puck after Caps goaltender Braden Holtby was crashed into by his own player as he tried to prevent Sean Couturier from herding the puck into the net. Konecny nearly had another goal a shift earlier when he broke in alone on Holtby, but the Caps' goaltender -- who faced 11 shots in that first period, deflected the try.
Two huge miscues in the first 3:01 of the second period erased all that good work. First, a harmless shot by Lars Eller along the goal line was badly misplayed by Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth into Chandler Stephenson's first goal at 2:14. Forty-seven seconds later, and soon after the Flyers' fourth line, having success on the forecheck, got caught on the ice too long, resulting in Stephenson's breakaway goal to tie it at 2.
A better line change the next time around created the Flyers' first power-play opportunity, but the Flyers did little with it. The Caps clearly smelled blood, and after Andrew MacDonald was sent off for slashing Alex Ovechkin, Andre Burakovsky tapped in a pass from the boards to give Washington a 3-2 lead with 14:32 left.
The Flyers had their second-period chances -- Holtby made two nice saves on Claude Giroux on consecutive shifts -- but entered the third period trailing by a goal. But Caps veteran Tom Wilson's crafty manipulation of Patrick's stick drew a hooking penalty as the Flyers swarmed early, and T.J. Oshie rifled one in to push Washington's lead to 4-2 -- his first in 14 games. Fourth-liner Devante Smith-Pelly made it 5-2 before Jake Voracek redirected Ivan Provorov's shot at 10:40 to provide some hope.
Patrick assisted on that goal, and was a plus-2 for the night.
"It's a real general statement, but when you watch him get up and down the rink, right now he looks like a strong, energized player," coach Dave Hakstol said Wednesday after the Flyers' morning skate. "And like any young player, there's always a ceiling to that.
"They're physically young players. But right now he's showing he's feeling good on the ice, playing a strong two-way game and playing well offensively."
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