Flyers' Dormant Power Play Again Proves Costly in Game 6

Barry Trotz has been coaching in the NHL since 1998. Sunday was the 70th playoff game he coached in.

So when the Flyers were handed a two-man advantage 4:30 into the second period in a scoreless game on Sunday afternoon, the Washington head coach knew the ramifications that would've came from a failed kill on the road.

"If we don't get through that, this building probably explodes," Trotz said. "We were able to get through that. And, to me, once we got through that, I felt we were gonna find a way to win the hockey game."

The building never exploded, of course, and it didn't take long for Trotz's feeling to gain a little validity.

Just 34 seconds after Nicklas Backstrom left the penalty box after serving a four-minute high-sticking penalty, the Washington forward took a pass from Marcus Johansson and drilled a one-timer past a sprawling Michal Neuvirth for the only goal in the Flyers' 1-0, season-ending loss in Game 6 (see Instant Replay).

The sequence that led to the end of the Flyers' playoff run started when Flyers forward Chris VandeVelde got his stick up high on teammate Ryan White, who drew blood and earned the Flyers a four-minute man-advantage. On the play, VandeVelde checked Backstrom, who was called for the infraction despite doing nothing wrong. And then on the ensuing faceoff, Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen got his stick into the midsection of Wayne Simmonds in front of Caps goalie Braden Holtby.

The hooking penalty gave the Flyers, who had already killed a Capitals 5-on-3 at the end of the first period and into the beginning of the second, two full minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage, but their dormant offense failed to capitalize.

And they barely made Holtby work. The likely Vezina Trophy winner turned aside perimeter shots from Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux before stopping Simmonds in tight. The Flyers, who had their first power-play unit on the ice for the full two-man advantage, attempted just five shots while on the 5-on-3. Only those three got to Holtby.

"From our standpoint, obviously that's one point where we could've pushed the momentum our way," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.

Instead it went the other way.

As the second half of Backstrom's minor was being killed, White was called for holding the stick of Niskanen, who had been out of the box for 25 seconds.

The momentum was stalled, and it shifted into the road team's favor two minutes later when Alex Ovechkin started the play that led to Backstrom's goal.

"It was a big difference maker for us in the series," Trotz said.

For that matter, that sequence itself was a good look at the difference in the series.

The Flyers went just 1 for 24 on the power play in the series, their only goal coming on Gostisbehere's one-timer to open the scoring in Game 4. The Capitals, even after the Flyers killed their last 10 chances, were 8 for 27 with the man advantage.

Hakstol routinely credited the pressure Washington's penalty killers put on the puck. Even when they were down two men, the Capitals applied pressure on every puck carrier. Hakstol's team never adjusted.

"I think we could have done a better job as a group getting possession, getting eyes up and being able to make a play against a high-pressure kill," Hakstol said. "But, as I said, the advantage went to them and their penalty kill. And kudos to them, through the series, for that."

"Those are obviously the toughest PKs to go against," said Brayden Schenn.

"They pressured us at every point," Simmonds said. "It was unfortunate we didn't get that going."

Unfortunate and series-changing.

"They are the best team in the regular season for a reason," Gostisbehere said of the Capitals, who move on to play Pittsburgh in the second round. "They're a good all-around team. Their special teams are very good. Their PK, they got it figured out and they shut us down a little bit per say. But you can't base it all on that. We could have done a lot of things differently. But we are a no excuse team."

At this point, the excuses wouldn't matter much anyway.

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