The tide of the Capitals' 5-4 overtime loss to the Flyers changed -- albeit briefly -- on an open-ice hit early in the third period.
Capitals defenseman Steven Oleksy lined up Flyers captain Claude Giroux in his sights and leveled him with a clean body check just inside the Capitals' offensive zone. Flyers forward Jakub Voracek took offense, coming after Oleksy and instigating a fight, his first-ever NHL regular-season scrap.
Oleksy's jersey ended up over his head, but the 27-year-old rookie kept swinging away until referees pulled the two apart. Based on the stream of blood running down the left side of Oleksy's face, one would assume that Voracek won the battle, but at the time, it was the Capitals that had won the war, earning a four-minute power play as a result of Voracek's 19 minutes of penalites.
“To be honest, I didn’t see [the hit]," Voracek said after the game."I just kind of went after him. He turned around and I had no choice after that.”
Voracek earned five minutes for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct, two minutes for instigating and an extra two minutes for fighting while wearing a visor, which is a violation of Rule 46.6. On the ensuing power play, Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin scored 26 seconds apart to give Washington a 4-2 third-period lead.
“He’s been great for us all season long,” forward Troy Brouwer said of Oleksy, who was undergoing treatment after the game and therefore could not speak to reporters. “He deserves to be here and he’s been one of our most steady defensemen since he’s been called up: fighting, big hits, turn the tide. We were able to get two PP goals on that PP and it should have been enough to win the game tonight. He did a great job.”
Ultimately, Washington blew the two-goal lead, but Oleksy's big check goes to show how just one play can change the complexion of an entire game.
“Tough kid, handled it," Coach Adam Oates said. "They protected their player. Our power play scored two goals, what you’re supposed to do there, and it put us in a good position.”
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