PHILADELPHIA – It looked like the Flyers were so annoyed by their recent 1-4-1 road trip, it didn’t matter if they were playing the 1987 Edmonton Oilers.
Somehow they were going to find a way to win, even though they were going up against the NHL-best Washington Capitals.
A shorthanded breakaway goal by Kevin Hayes late in the second period broke a 2-2 tie and sent the Flyers on their way to a 3-2 win on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, ending a three-game losing streak.
Carter Hart continued his dominating goaltending ways on home ice. He improved his record at the WFC to 12-1-2. He entered the game with a 1.49 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in the friendly confines.
Hayes stole a puck from All-Star defenseman John Carlson at the defending blue line, raced in on goalie Braden Holtby and deked his way past for a backhand shot into the net with 2:01 left in the period.
The Flyers now have the best winning percentage in the NHL on home ice. Their 14-2-4 mark for 32 points leads the league.
It was only Washington’s 10th regulation-time loss of the season.
One of the keys to the win was the Flyers’ penalty kill, which had been slumping of late.
But on this night, the Flyers blanked all five Capital power plays and added insult with the Hayes goal.
“Obviously the road trip wasn’t what we wanted,’’ Hayes said after the game. “That’s not how we wanted to play. We love coming home to our fans. We’ve been great all year at home.
“I think our penalty kill was great tonight. You can’t lay back against those guys. They have skilled players but tonight I thought we were great.’’
The game went back and forth in the first period, with the Flyers getting an early goal from Travis Konecny for a 1-0 lead and later a rare marker from defenseman Robert Hagg to gain a 2-2 tie at the first intermission.
Konecny found himself wide open in the left circle, took a pass from Sean Couturier and beat Holtby far side for his 14th goal at the 3:24 mark.
It was a good way for the Flyers to get started, particularly after that grinding road trip.
“Yes, it (the road trip) was a long one,’’ Konecny said at the first intermission. “Sometimes you just need to get home. It’s a learning curve for the whole team, going through a road trip like that. It’s nice to be back in our home building.’’
Hagg’s goal was his first of the season.
“Well, it’s about time,’’ he said with a grin. “It was nice to see it go in.
“Our road trip wasn’t the best. I think that speaks for itself. We needed these two points. We had a lot of energy tonight.’’
The Caps picked up a goal from Nicklas Backstrom at 7:11 when Alex Ovechkin knocked Travis Sanheim off the puck in the corner, allowing Tom Wilson to set up the shooter.
Then Jakub Vrana scored at 12:34 when Sanheim accidentally screened Hart directly between the inner hash marks.
But the Flyers responded with 42 seconds left in the period. Hagg fired from the point and Tyler Pitlick’s stick appeared to distract Holtby.
In the end, the Flyers’ penalty kill units might have made the difference. Hart noticed the Flyers seemed more committed in this game.
“They’ve got one of the top power plays in the league,’’ Hart noted. “For us to hold them to really nothing. The willingness to block shots, compete, get in lanes. Hagg had a couple huge blocks, he made that block on ‘Ovie’ (Ovechkin) in the third period. That was probably the biggest difference.’’
Added Couturier: “The PK was big. That (Hayes) PK goal was huge, especially when you’re killing a lot of penalties. It’s tough to kind of get any offense going. We killed all their power plays, so I think that was a big part of the win.’’
Asked about why the Flyers’ home and road records are so disparate, coach Alain Vigneault smiled and said he going to go home and have a beverage.
“At this time, right now I’m going home and have a martini,’’ he said. “I’m going to enjoy the win and our next game is at home so we’ll focus on that right now.’’
Mark Friedman wore number 59 in his season debut with the Flyers. . .The Flyers are off until Saturday when they host the suddenly hot Tampa Bay Lightning. . .Philadelphia entered the game with a home-ice goal differential of plus-35, best in the NHL by 14 goals. . .The Flyers traveled 5,527 miles on their six-game road trip. . .Philadelphia did not have a shot on goal for the first 13-plus minutes of the second period. . .The Flyers are now 8-2-2 against the Metropolitan Division.