By Michael Bennett
You gotta hand it to the Flyers:
They are the worst team in the National Hockey League and they still found a way to make history last night:
They tied an NHL record by starting a seventh goalie in one season in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Mike McKenna (above), claimed off waivers by the Flyers from the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 4, made 21 saves in the eighth straight loss for Philly (15-22-6).
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it was a little bit of a challenge just from a lot of different logistical standpoints,” said McKenna, who has played 35 games for seven NHL teams, “but my job is to play hockey and be a goaltender and stop the puck, and no matter what team I’m on, I’m going to do that to the best of my ability.”
T.J. Oshie scored twice, Jakub Vrana had two goals and an assist, and Pheonix Copley made 37 saves for the Capitals (26-12-4), who have won two in a row after a three-game losing streak. John Carlson had two assists.
Vrana has an NHL career-high 14 goals in 42 games after scoring 13 goals in 71 games last season.
“He keeps maturing, keeps getting more and more confidence, which is good for us,” Oshie said of the 22-year-old forward. “You can see what he can do with his legs, and somehow his hands move just as fast. He’s a big part of our team moving into a big role for us.”
Jakub Voracek had a goal and two assists, and Sean Couturier had two assists for the Flyers, who have been outscored 31-15 in the losing streak, their longest since they lost 10 in a row Nov. 11-Dec. 2, 2017.
“The job doesn’t change,” Flyers coach Scott Gordon said. “You still have to coach the team. We’ll prepare and do the work that we have to do and stay on top of things.”
The Capitals took a 1-0 lead on their first shot when Vrana set up Tom Wilson on a 2-on-1 rush at 4:21 of the first period.
“Just try to keep up with [Vrana],” Wilson said. “He’s a world-class skater, so you kind of trust that he’s going to win his race and just kind of hope that he looks up and sees the play at the backdoor, which he did.”
The Flyers tied it 1-1 after a turnover by Michal Kempny resulted in a 2-on-1, and Voracek scored on a one-timer off a pass from Oskar Lindblom at 9:28.
Oshie gave Washington a 2-1 lead at 9:19 of the second period when he redirected Lars Eller’s shot from the point.
Vrana made it 3-1 when he intercepted a pass by Couturier near the Capitals blue line and raced in alone on McKenna to score at 11:22. He scored a power-play goal from a sharp angle at 15:55 to make it 4-1.
The Flyers, who were coming off a 3-0 loss at home to the St. Louis Blues on Monday, have been outscored 15-1 in the second period during their losing streak.
“I think in the first we had a great answer on the first goal and I thought we had some momentum, and the second period got us again,” Philadelphia defenseman Radko Gudas said.
Wayne Simmonds scored to pull the Flyers to within 4-2 with 3:27 left in the game, and Claude Girouxmade it 4-3 with seven seconds left.
Oshie scored into an empty net with three seconds remaining for the 5-3 final score. It was his 200th NHL goal.
The other goalies to start for the Flyers this season are Brian Elliott (13 starts), Calvin Pickard (eight), Anthony Stolarz (seven), Carter Hart (seven), Michal Neuvirth (six) and Alex Lyon (one).
The 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques also started seven goalies.