Fans show frustration with Flyers’ Game 3 struggles
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PHILADELPHIA — Start with the plastic wristbands, chucked over the boards like pennies into fountains. They flew in waves, first after the Philadelphia Flyers received 35 penalty minutes for brawling with their visitors, then before the ensuing face-off, and finally after the Washington Capitals scored their fifth goal in Monday night’s 6–1 blowout. Trash cans and shovels emerged to clean the mess. Wells Fargo Center emptied. The public address announcer tried his damnedest to keep order. “Have some class,” Lou Nolan said. And then, when more falling bracelets finally forced the officials into action, Nolan lamented, “Two-minute bench minor. Way to go.”
Hours before madness erupted in the third period, those same wristbands had twinkled while a video tribute played for Philadelphia’s late owner, Ed Snider, who died one week ago. They were placed onto every seat during the morning skate, accompanied by notes that called them “an integral part of our pregame show,” programmed to light up in different colors and flash along to the in-house music. Now, as Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals devolved into a sideshow, ensuring that the Capitals’ first 3-0 series lead in their franchise history and team-record five power play goals will go forgotten, they dotted the rink, white like the ice.
“I know they made that announcement to the fans to tell them not to throw anything on the ice,” said Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who cameras captured motioning at fans to Stop! F---ing stop! while the first batch rained down. “It’s just an unfortunate situation at the end there.”
How unfortunate? Let us count the ways. By taking 13 penalties, Philadelphia handed its visitors 12:48 on the man advantage, which resulted power play tallies by Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin and, for the only time in his NHL career, fourth-line center Jay Beagle. Thanks to Michael Raffl’s strike 57 seconds into the first period, the Flyers matched their scoring output from Games 1 and 2, but failed to beat Braden Holtby over the final 59:03.
Philly finished the night with Ryan White (misconduct), Radko Gudas (misconduct) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (game misconduct and checking major) ejected into the locker room for various transgressions, each stemming from Bellemare’s brutal check of Dmitry Orlov, who was promptly struck with a tossed bracelet while receiving medical attention on the bench.
“Obviously we pulled the game away and they weren’t interested in playing anymore,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “And so we ended up on the power play for the last seven or eight minutes. I just thought it wasn’t good for the game, plain and simple. We’re on national television, I don't think it displays our game very well.”
The Presidents’ Trophy winners will return here on Wednesday looking to make quick work of their Metropolitan Division rivals, who still haven’t received any points in this series from leading scorers Claude Giroux and Simmonds. The Capitals, meanwhile, saw Ovechkin tie Dale Hunter for the franchise lead in playoff points (72), Holtby move into second place with 19 postseason wins, and Carlson become the franchise’s first blueliner since 1993 to score power play goals in three straight playoff games. They withstood an early push from the Flyers, who converted Snider’s emotional tribute into a buzzing first period, then executed well enough on special teams to ensure a laugher.
“Whatever,” Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “It’s a shame. But it means we’re probably doing pretty well.”
Down the hallway, when the home locker room first opened, the scene was somber. Heads down, backs to the media horde, several Flyers changed without speaking. Others headed to the podium to dissect the defeat, while Brayden Schenn and Simmonds stuck around and spoke. One game away from elimination, the dejection was palpable.
“I think everything that they’ve gotten, I think to a point that we’ve given them,” Simmonds said. “I think we’ve played pretty solid games. We’ve made some mistakes here and there, and they’ve capitalized on those mistakes that we make. We’ve got to make sure we’re pretty much playing mistake-free hockey. The little things this time of year make the biggest difference.”
And sometimes, the game spirals so far out of control that fans hurl promotional wristbands onto the ice and the PA announcer calls them out for a lack of class. After Washington’s final tally, two more bracelets landed in front of the home bench. Before any officials noticed, Flyers forward Sam Gagner swept them toward the dasher, where a team employee scooped up the evidence. No further penalties were issued. No shovels were needed. The puck was dropped at center ice. The hockey game resumed.
Sarah Barshop contributed to this report.