Red-hot Konecny nets hat trick to cool off Caps

Travis Konecny

     PHILADELPHIA – With Claude Giroux gone plus Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson injured, it looked like Travis Konecny was going to have to carry the load for the Flyers’ offense this season.

      And as fast as you can say “hat trick to tie a career high in goals,’’ that’s exactly what he’s done, typified by Wednesday night’s effort against the Washington Capitals, who were 7-1-2 in their previous 10 games.

      Konecny did indeed score three goals for the second time in his career and raised his season total to 24 as the Flyers held off the Capitals, 5-3, at the Wells Fargo Center.

      That makes six wins in the last seven games for the Flyers, who have quietly moved to within seven points of a playoff spot after suffering through a 10-game winless streak earlier in the season.

      Konecny’s most impactful goal might have come in the first period. The Capitals had just scored in the final minute to knot the score at 1-1. But seconds later, Konecny blasted home a shot and the Flyers had regained the momentum.

      In the third period, Konecny scored a shorthanded goal and then, with the Caps having rallied from a 4-1 deficit to make it 4-3, hit an empty net.

      What’s been the biggest difference this year? After all, Konecny had only 16 goals in 79 games last season.

      “He just plays, the puck finds him,’’ coach John Tortorella said after the game. “Everything about his game is effort. I think he’s getting rewarded.

      “I saw the kind of shape he was in at (training) camp. I think what he’s done here, he’s done a little extra work. I think (special assistant to the GM) Danny Briere had a little bit to do with it. They talked quite a bit about playing on the inside. He played on the outside a lot and his stats weren’t good. I think he put the time in. When you put the uniform on, you have to run with it. I think he’s done a really good job.’’

      Konecny said Briere has been helpful.

      “This started last year and into this year,’’ Konecny said. “Instead of taking shots on the outside, maybe making a play instead of just wasting a shot. It’s been great. It’s stuff I’ve never really looked at before. To see it on paper and on a video has really helped me out.’’

      With 20 points in his last 10 games, Konecny might have some people scratching their heads over why he wasn’t named to the NHL All-Star Game.

      “I’ve just been coming to the rink and trying to work hard,’’ he said. “It’s going my way right now. That (first-period) goal was big. When you take the lead going into the break, it’s always a big momentum thing.’’

      Scott Laughton, who assisted on Konecny’s second and third goals, views the player’s success as the product of diligent effort on a daily basis.

      “That goal (at the end of the first) was huge,’’ Laughton said. “It just gives you a little bit of a boost. We found a way tonight. And anytime you can get a hat trick it’s pretty awesome. Good for him. I’m happy for him.

      “He’s taking over games, to be honest. One of our best players. He’s playing with speed, getting a role on the PK. He’s gotten a role with ‘Torts’ (Tortorella) and kind of taken off with it.’’

      A big key to the victory centered on the Flyers’ ability to stay out of the penalty box. They didn’t take their first penalty until 6:38 of the third period. The Caps’ power play, led by superstar Alex Ovechkin, can be lethal if given enough time and space.

      Instead, the Flyers executed some strong checking at both ends of the rink and didn’t commit any lazy infractions.

      The Flyers have scored four or more goals in seven of their last eight games.

      Goaltender Carter Hart did his job, turning aside some difficult chances, particularly in the second period.

      The Flyers took an early lead on Laughton’s power-play goal at 7:26 of the first period. Laughton’s shot through a Joel Farabee screen eluded goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

      Although the Capitals tied the score with 54 seconds left in the period on a goal from Garnet Hathaway, the Flyers bounced right back when Konecny scored just 21 seconds later. Konecny finished off a Farabee pass from behind the net. It extended Konecny’s NHL-leading point streak to 10 games.

      “The most important shift after a goal is the next one,’’ Farabee said at the first intermission. “Just a really good play by (Cam) York in the neutral zone. It starts the forecheck and then we just go from there really. It was a really good job by TK to find that quiet ice and it’s easy just to find him there.’’

      Owen Tippett made it 3-1 at 5:31 of the third period. His shot from the top of the right circle eluded Kuemper. Then Konecny connected again at 7:28 on a shorthanded effort. He now has eight multi-point games in his last 10.

      It was the Flyers’ NHL-leading eighth shorthanded goal of the season.

      Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie then scored for Washington to make for a somewhat hectic finish.

      >Short shots

      Trevor van Riemsdyk, younger brother of the Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk, played in his 500th NHL game. JVR recently played in his 900th NHL game. . .The Flyers complete the home-and-away set in Washington on Saturday night.

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About Wayne Fish 2409 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.