Shayne Gostisbehere, Flyers' Power Play Announce Series Arrival

With a typically forceful swing of Shayne Gostisbehere's stick, layers of frustration melted off the star rookie defenseman early in the first period Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Uncharacteristically quiet throughout the first three games of the series, Gostisbehere didn't take long to announce his arrival in Game 4.

The birthday boy, who turned 23 Wednesday, recorded his first of likely many Stanley Cup playoff goals when he blasted a power-play point shot past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby to open the game's scoring for the Flyers 5:51 into their eventual 2-1 victory that staved off elimination and forced a Game 5 on Friday night in Washington, D.C. (see game story).

"It was a relief," Gostisbehere said. "We've got a lot of bounces and they weren't really going our way. So it was good to get on the board early, especially. I think it set the tone."

With their season on the brink of extinction, the Flyers desperately needed to set the tone Wednesday and Gostisbehere's goal did just that.

After getting that lead, the Flyers controlled the tempo for the rest of the period and most of the game, which is important against the high-powered Caps, and didn't let the visitors grab momentum back, as had happened so many times before in this series.

Remember the Capitals tying Game 3 just minutes after Michael Raffl opened the scoring? Nothing like that happened Wednesday. In fact, the Flyers never trailed and were only tied for the few minutes before Gostisbehere's goal.

"It was huge for us the way we responded," Gostisbehere said. "It was the way we could play the whole series. It felt good to get some bounces finally our way. It was a good game for us."

The man they call "Ghost" has been an igniter for the Flyers' offense since his call-up in November. His 17 regular-season goals were a Flyers record for a rookie defenseman and, barring something drastic, he'll be a finalist for the Calder Trophy come June's NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

But the Caps had shut him down in the first three games, as Gostisbehere was held to just one point - an assist on Jake Voracek's goal in Game 2.

It's no coincidence that as Gostisbehere struggled, so did the Flyers in this series with just two goals in three games heading into Wednesday.

But the most powerful struggle came on the power play, which features a first unit quarterbacked by Gostisbehere. The Flyers' man advantage was a brutal 0 for 13, had been mugged by an aggressive Washington penalty kill and stymied by the stingy Holtby.

Those struggles, however, peeled away Wednesday when Gostisbehere found the back of the net.

"It was huge," said Wayne Simmonds, who assisted on both Flyers goals Wednesday and played a large role in getting traffic in front of Holtby, something the Flyers had struggled greatly with prior. "It's like taking a monkey off your back. We battle so hard in front of Holtby to get power-play goals and goals in general. Just to see that one go in really early was nice."

In his postgame comments, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol couldn't downplay the importance of Gostisbehere's power-play goal in Game 4. Especially after the lackluster 0 for 5 showing his team's power-play produced in Game 3.

"We were sporadic last game," he said. "We had a couple decent power plays and some good looks. We had a couple where we were on different pages out there. We were all over the map. So it was nice to be able to come out tonight. We were actually really focused on that unit and it was nice to get us kick started."

Brayden Schenn felt Gostisbehere's opening tally gave the Flyers' power play a much needed trait it had been lacking - confidence.

"Ghost gets that shot off at the top and we try to utilize that," Schenn said. "He got one through, it was a nice shot, cross bar and in."

As is customary in the hockey culture, Gostisbehere deflected all attention off himself and instead put the spotlight on the work his teammates did in front of and around him in Game 4.

"I think we got a little more active on the blue line and started moving our feet instead of just standing still," he said. "We made it hard for them to block shots. Our forwards did a good job of boxing those guys out and getting to the blue paint and get in Holtby's eyes."

But your first Stanley Cup playoff goal and win all in the same night?

Not a bad 23rd birthday, huh?

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