Having been punctured twice in 26 seconds during the third period Sunday, Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov cradled his stick under his left arm, grabbed the water bottle resting on top of his net and heaved it in the direction of the Capitals' celebratory scrum.
It landed in front of the Flyers' bench, exploding in a burst of orange Gatorade. It provided an apt metaphor; here was a desperate team melting in the glow of bright expectations, with nothing lett to show for themselves but an orange and black puddle.
It was a feeling that the Capitals had known all too well this season, but one they narrowly avoided just 24 hours earlier, erasing a two-goal deficit with 20 minutes left to escape Buffalo with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Sabres. With a come-from-behind win fresh in their minds, the Capitals, up 4-2 with over 13 minutes left after Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal, knew that the Flyers would press.
Yet even with such forethought, Washington could not stymie Philadelphia's rally. The Flyers resolidified -- or, more appropriately considering the holiday, resurrected -- scoring the game-tying goal with 9.5 seconds left and the game-winning goal 1:34 into overtime, handing the Capitals a gut-punching 5-4 overtime loss.
“It hurts," said forward Troy Brouwer, whose holding penalty allowed Claude Giroux to cut the Flyers' deficit to 4-3. "We’re treating it like we gave away two points. I know we got one out of this but we had them in a good position to win outright, get two points and move up in the standings. Them getting two points and us only getting one that’s a complete – it just shouldn’t happen.”
The Capitals sensed what they could have accomplished by holding on; win the game, and they are the closest that they have been to the Eastern Conference playoff picture since they were 0-0-0. Instead, as defenseman Mike Green put it, the Capitals "sat back on our heels" as the Flyers "were coming full throttle," handing out hope to a team that they were hoping to snatch it away from.
"We lost a chance to win a game," Coach Adam Oates said. "We got a point, but we obviously want two more. And we let it get away."
Washington will wrap up its three-game road trip Tuesday in Raleigh against the Hurricanes, a game that Oates called a "must-win" if his team intends on qualifying for a playoff berth. Then again, Sunday's game was a must-win, too, and the Capitals let a point slip away.
“If you win these games, you deserve to be in the playoffs,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
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