WASHINGTON – Somebody apparently wasn’t very happy with that 5-0 undressing by the last-place Devils last Thursday.
At least that’s the foul mood the Flyers appeared to be in during Saturday night’s game against the first-place Washington Capitals.
The Flyers came out and played a motivated first period, then dropped a three-goal bomb in a span of 1:45 early in the second period.
In the third period, the Flyers added three more goals, including one by Claude Giroux, who broke a career record-tying 13-game goal-less streak with a goal at 8:02.
It was the Flyers captain’s 800th career point, only the fourth player in team history to hit the 800 milestone.
From there they coasted to a 7-2 win over the Capitals, just the eighth regulation-time loss of the season for the 2018 Stanley Cup champions.
Clearly the Flyers were in a feisty state of mind. Jake Voracek pummeled Nic Dowd in the first period and Nicolas Aube-Kubel pummeled Brendan Leipsic in the third.
Aube-Kubel had a goal, an assist and a fight for a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Sean Couturier led the way with a pair of goals and goaltender Brian Elliott, who was pulled after giving up four goals to the Devils, was back to his steady self in this one.
The Flyers, who lost their previous three visits to Washington, also got goals in the second period from Michael Raffl and James van Riemsdyk as they raised their road record to within one game of .500 (12-13-3).
They are 3-0-2 in their last five games away from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Several players said the way the team responded after the defeat by New Jersey was a good measure of the players’ character.
“There’s no doubt our guys were highly motivated,’’ said coach Alain Vigneault. “I think we were motivated against the Devils but tonight we were able to capitalize on some of our looks.’’
James van Riemsdyk contrasted the two efforts.
“It (N.J.) was not a good effort by us by any means,’’ he said. “We didn’t execute well enough. Tonight I think we showed what kind of team we can be when we’re all playing together. Obviously one of our strongest games of the year. We wanted to have a good response game, I think that’s how you can judge the character of a team – when things don’t go their way, how they show up the next game.’’
Added Robert Hagg, who was credited with four blocked shots and a big part of why the Flyers held the potent Caps’ power play to just one goal in four attempts: “We’ve been talking that this game was going to be huge for us. This is a game we needed to step up and everybody did it. This shows what kind of team we are. When we had a game like we did against Jersey, coming in here and playing Washington was probably best for this group.’’
Couturier liked the way his team responded to the challenge. They’ve taken two of three (2-0-1) from the Capitals this season.
“It was physical,’’ Couturier said of the first period, “same as usual when we play them. There wasn’t a lot of room out there and we were fighting for every inch. Special teams made the difference.”
Couturier’s second goal started the scoring parade in the second period. Then Aube-Kubel deked past ex-Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas and fed Raffl for a goal at 2:45.
“He (Aube-Kubel) intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and I tried to find an open spot,’’ Raffl said. “He made a beautiful pass that landed right on my tape.’’
Finally, a long looping shot by Matt Niskanen was tipped past goalie Braden Holtby at 4:30.
In the third period, Aube-Kubel took advantage of a Capital turnover to score at 2:58, then Travis Konecny scored at 5:47. With the Flyers on a two-man advantage power play, Giroux connected and the Flyers were on their way to their largest margin of victory this season.
Couturier ended an eight-game goal-less streak and Konecny put an end to a five-gamer.
It was the worst loss of the season for the Capitals.
Giroux benefited from moving back to left wing and playing with Couturier. It was a relief getting a goal and the 800th point was a bonus.
“The win feels the best, especially in a building that’s tough to play,’’ he said. “I haven’t been playing that great. It’s good to be able to contribute. We weren’t happy with our game against New Jersey. Guys were focused, ready to go. Everybody played great.’’
As for 800, he joins Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Brian Propp on that plateau.
“It’s great,’’ Giroux said. “But it’s not something where, at this point in my career, is a priority. But if you’re getting points, your team is probably going to have a chance to win.’’
And Aube-Kubel grinned when asked about his Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight).
“Before the game, we were thinking to bounce back,’’ he said. “I think it was the first (Howe) of my career. I’m just trying to be consistent with my game.’’
Niskanen, the former Capital making his first trip back to Washington, received a video tribute and nice ovation from the Capitals. Niskanen was a key figure in the Caps’ Stanley Cup run in ’18. . .Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who needs two goals to hit the 700 mark for his career, was kept off the scoresheet.
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