PHILADELPHIA — After scoring a pair of power-play goals 26 seconds apart in the third period Sunday night to take what should have been a commanding two-goal lead against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals frittered away the advantage.
Claude Giroux scored on the power play with 12 minutes 48 seconds gone in the third period to begin the rally and Kimmo Timonen blasted the tying goal from the point with 9.5 seconds remaining in regulation to force extra time. In overtime, it was a goal from Ruslan Fedotenko that handed Washington a 5-4 overtime loss at Wells Fargo Center.
Washington gained a point but failed to take advantage of the opportunity to tie the eighth-place New York Rangers in points.
Instead, the Capitals sit with 34 points, one behind the Rangers and four back of the Southeast Division-leading Jets with one game in hand.
After what several players called their worst start of the season Saturday in Buffalo, the Capitals focused on making a strong opening statement in the second half of back-to-back games.
Washington was able to dictate the play early; it spent shifts in the offensive zone and worked off the cycle to create shots and scoring chances.
Nicklas Backstrom scored on one of those extended possessions when he tipped a point shot from Jack Hillen past Ilya Bryzgalov (25 saves) for a 1-0 lead just 4:29 into the contest.
The Capitals continued their dominance until the midway point of the frame.
But Philadelphia struck at an unlikely time.
Just as the crowd showered the team with Bronx cheers after the Flyers finally took a shot on goal with 10:19 gone in the first, the Flyers scored on their second.
Max Talbot evened the score at 1 at 10:26 to rouse the slumbering Flyers, who took a 2-1 lead just over four minutes later.
A loose puck in the Flyers’ zone wound up within reach of Claude Giroux, and the skilled winger found Matt Read crossing the red line at center ice. With the long lead pass, Read was off on a clean breakaway several strides ahead of Capitals defensemen John Carlson and Jack Hillen.
Read bested Braden Holtby, who finished with 29 saves, with a shot low glove side for a Flyers lead at 14:55.
Washington had a juicy opportunity to tie the game when Wayne Simmonds was whistled for goaltender interference.
On the ensuing faceoff, Giroux went off for trying to play the puck with his hand, a new rule this season, giving the visitors a full two minutes of a 5-on-3.
The Capitals recorded three shots on goal, but Philadelphia made several key clears that disrupted the unit and it failed to convert.
The two teams exchanged chances and chirps in the second period as the game leveled out.
Neither team seemed able to truly seize control in the back-and-forth frame but the Capitals did manage to tie it.
Mike Green was called for holding Zac Rinaldo in the final four minutes. But the Capitals rendered the Philadelphia power play, which entered the game as the top unit in the league (24.8 percent), harmless allowing just one shot on goal.
As the defenseman broke of the penalty box, Brooks Laich sent an outlet pass up ice that found him in full flight.
Green fired a shot stick side on Bryzgalov to make it 2-2 with 1:18 remaining in the middle stanza. It marked Green’s second goal in as many games and his third in six games since returning from a lingering groin injury.
Tied in the early going of the third period, defenseman Steve Oleksy leveled Giroux just inside the offensive blue line. It was a clean and heavy check by the rookie, but one that changed the course of the game in the Capitals’ favor.
As Oleksy gathered himself from delivering the hit, Flyers winger Jakub Voracek sought immediate retribution and pulled the blue-liner into a fight. While both received major penalties for the scrap, Voracek received extra minors for instigating and fighting giving Washington a four-minute power play.
Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin scored 26 seconds apart to give Washington what seemed like a safe lead. Washington, which entered the contest with the second-ranked power play in the NHL at 24.1 percent success, was 0-for-4 on the man advantage Sunday night prior to those opportunities in the third period.
Capitals note: Michal Neuvirth was scheduled to start against the Flyers, but Washington opted to play it safe with the goaltender in case he had suffered a concussion taking a puck off the mask during Saturday’s morning skate in Buffalo. Neuvirth was visibly shaken after Ovechkin’s shot hit off his mask Saturday, and he still wasn’t feeling well on Sunday.
“We’re going to take precautions. He doesn’t feel great. The medical guys will handle what we’re supposed to do,” Coach Adam Oates said prior to Sunday’s game.
With Neuvirth sidelined, the Capitals recalled prospect Philipp Grubauer to serve as backup in Philadelphia.