With Flyers missing a defenseman, Couturier gives them super lift


Sean Couturier served the Flyers a Selke appetizer before they enjoyed Super Bowl Sunday in the nation's capital.

In Couturier's anticipated return from injury, the Flyers halted a two-game losing skid by beating the Capitals, 7-4, in a wild, up-and-down affair at Capital One Arena.

Couturier scored the game-winning goal, finished with three points (two goals, one assist) and put up a plus-4 rating in 15:54 minutes. The 2019-20 Frank J. Selke Trophy winner helped his club nail down a lead, something the Flyers (8-3-2) had serious difficulty doing in his absence.

"He's the best two-way forward in the game right now," Philippe Myers said postgame.

Scott Laughton delivered his first career hat trick. All three goals were timely. The first two erased a 2-0 deficit and the third was crucial insurance as the Flyers were nursing a 5-4 advantage.

In their last six games against the Capitals (6-3-3), including the round-robin contest, the Flyers are 5-0-1 and have outscored Washington 26-12.

• The Flyers desperately missed Couturier. However, they know they still need to clean things up.

• The Laughton, James van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee line is ripe with secondary scoring.

Laughton has five goals in his last two games against Washington (including the round-robin game), Farabee had three assists and van Riemsdyk had another multi-point game (one goal, one assist).

Van Riemsdyk is on a seven-game point streak (four goals, nine assists) and is fourth in the NHL in scoring with 18 points, behind only Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Mitchell Marner.

What a start for the 31-year-old winger.

• Alex Ovechkin was a highlight-reel machine as he continues to load up his Hall of Fame résumé.

He put up two goals and two assists. His first-period helper came on a play any hockey person can appreciate.

His second goal was off his big shot but was also a product of a breakdown by the Flyers. They somehow left Ovechkin alone near the point on a shift in which he was firing away on Carter Hart.

• Speaking of Hart, he was once again under siege. He faced 37 shots and denied 33 of them.

Hart had to make 30 or more saves only seven times in 40 starts last season.

The 22-year-old goalie has had to make 30 or more saves six times already through nine starts this season.

With the Flyers playing the Capitals, you couldn't help but think about Matt Niskanen and how much Alain Vigneault's club has missed the veteran defenseman's all-situation steadiness.

The Flyers will take the win, but they still can't be thrilled with the process currently. They don't consistently resemble the team that allowed the NHL's fewest shots per game last season.

The Capitals were undermanned and put up four goals in the first two periods. In five matchups with the Flyers last season, they never scored more than two.

• Washington netminder Vitek Vanecek yielded four goals on 14 shots and was pulled after van Riemsdyk's marker with 3:24 left in the middle frame.

Craig Anderson relieved Vanecek and converted six saves on eight shots.

• Holding a 5-4 lead in the third period, the Flyers had a four-minute power play after Couturier was left bloodied from a Zdeno Chara high stick to the jaw. The Flyers failed to cash in and had only one shot on that man advantage opportunity.

They're fortunate it didn't cost them. Couturier was fine and later scored an empty-netter.

• Couturier made his return after missing 10 games because of a costochondral separation and Myers was back in the lineup following his absence Friday with an upper-body injury.

It was a two-for-one trade-off as Travis Sanheim unexpectedly missed his first game of the season for an undisclosed reason. The Flyers listed the 24-year-old blueliner as day to day.

Update: Sanheim misses Flyers' game vs. Capitals because of COVID protocol

With Sanheim out of the lineup, the Flyers used a different combination of six defensemen for an eighth straight game.

Defenseman Robert Hagg scored his first goal of the season on a nasty shot.

Washington was severely shorthanded without Evgeny Kuznetsov (COVID protocol), Jakub Vrana (COVID protocol), T.J. Oshie (upper body) and llya Samsonov (COVID protocol).

• The Flyers and Capitals are back at it in D.C. on Tuesday (6 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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