Vrana scores twice, Capitals hand Flyers 8th straight loss
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jakub Vrana keeps finding another gear with his speed and another level to his game. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers keep finding new lows in what’s turning into a lost season.
Vrana scored twice and had an assist for his first career three-point game to help the Washington Capitals beat Philadelphia 5-3 on Tuesday night, handing the division-rival Flyers their eighth consecutive loss. He showed off his speed on his first goal and ended the defending Stanley Cup champions’ 0-for-12 power-play drought with his second.
The 22-year-old winger set a career high with 14 goals in just 42 games. Often one of the last players on the ice for practice, the 2014 first-round pick takes every chance he can to improve and doesn’t think he’s done growing.
“In my situation I always feel like I can work on something,” said Vrana, who also assisted on Tom Wilson’s first-period goal that opened the scoring. “I can always get better. It either is the defensive zone or whatever, sometimes mental game. It’s little things you can always work on, and I just try to improve every day, work on my game and try to get better.”
Not much is getting better for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 16 and is second-last in the NHL with 36 points. Despite outshooting the Capitals 40-26, the Flyers unraveled yet again and fell to 3-7-2 under interim coach Scott Gordon.
“We’ve got to win the game,” said Philadelphia winger Jakub Voracek, who scored his 11th goal. “It’s not that hard. I mean, it is hard right now for us, but it has to end. We’ve just got to get on a roll. We need to stop it. When you play 40 minutes, you’re not going to win many games. I mean, if you play 40 great and 20 good, maybe you have a chance, but if you play 40 good and 20 absolutely brutal like we did again, we have no chance.”
In starting journeyman Mike McKenna, the floundering Flyers tied an NHL record by using their seventh goaltender this season. They became the fourth team in league history to play seven goalies, joining the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques, 2002-03 St. Louis Blues and 2007-08 Los Angeles Kings.
McKenna allowed four goals on 25 shots and was hung out to dry on Flyers defensive miscues.
“Just trying to kind of get your bearings a little bit and sort things, but hockey’s hockey,” McKenna said. “It definitely wasn’t my best game, I don’t think, but it felt like the rest of them I’ve played this year in terms of just preparation and everything.”
T.J. Oshie also scored twice — including an empty-netter with 2.1 seconds left — for the Capitals, who won their second in a row to bounce back from a three-game skid. Backup goaltender Pheonix Copley made a season-high 37 saves to pick up his 10th victory of the season.
Copley has started five of the past 11 games and exceeded expectations so much that Washington has been able to reduce All-Star Braden Holtby’s workload.
“He has been awesome,” Wilson said. “You don’t know him that well and he comes in, and we’re pretty lucky to have two guys that can steal a game for us on any given night. ... He’s one of the backbones of our team. A great guy, a great teammate and he’s done a great job for us this year.”
Washington was outplayed during the first period and beyond but capitalized on several mistakes by Philadelphia, which got late goals by Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux to make the final score look closer than the game itself.
NOTES: C Nic Dowd replaced Nicklas Backstrom (illness) in the lineup. ... Gordon said he started McKenna to give 20-year-old Carter Hart a rest after playing twice in three days. ... Simmonds was ejected with a 10-minute misconduct with 2:04 remaining. ... F Phil Varone replaced Jordan Weal in the Flyers’ lineup.
Flyers: Look to avoid a ninth consecutive loss when they host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Capitals: Visit the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno