April 16 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center

Time: 7:00 p.m.


Stream: MonSports.net/Stream

Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Capitals Radio 24/7

Washington Capitals (39-31-11)

Philadelphia Flyers (38-32-11)

The Caps conclude the 2023-24 regular season on Tuesday night in Philadelphia against the Flyers. They’ll also be finishing up a set of back-to-back games against a rested Philly squad; the Caps blanked the Boston Bruins 2-0 on Monday in Washington in their home ice finale for ’23-24.

After sweeping a pair of must-win games on a two-game homestand, the Caps are now in a “win and you’re in” scenario on Tuesday against the Flyers, who also must win to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Washington and Philadelphia are two of four teams who are battling it out for the last of the 16 Stanley Cup playoff berths, the second wild card slot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit and Pittsburgh are also still alive, but both require help to get in, while Washington is in control of its own playoff fate.

Detroit hosts Montreal on Tuesday, and the Penguins visit the Islanders on Wednesday. But if the Caps defeat Philly on Tuesday, everything else is moot. As for the Flyers, they have to defeat Washington in regulation on Tuesday, and they also need the Red Wings and the Penguins to lose their respective finales in regulation.

“I think it’s pretty fitting for what this group has been through, going down to the last game, going on the road, playing a back-to-back, against a real good hockey team, to play one game, one game for our playoff lives,” says Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery. “For us to get to this point, we had to look after [Monday night], and I thought our guys did a really good job of staying focused on just [Monday night], worry about Boston. And it was as clean a game as we’ve had.”

It’s the first time in 16 years the Caps have been in a position to make the playoffs if they win their last game of the season.

On April 5, 2008, the Caps downed Florida 3-1 in their regular season finale in the District, slipping past Carolina for the Southeast Division crown on the final day of the season. The Caps needed to win each of their last seven games -- and 11 of their last 12 -- just to get in, and they pulled it off.

“That was a long time ago,” says Caps’ captain Alex Ovechkin, the only remaining Washington player from that ’07-08 division championship team. “It was the first time we make the playoffs; we had [Sergei Fedorov], we had [Viktor Kozlov]. And we had a young team, so it kind of reminds me of back then. We had a young team, not a lot of experience, but we stick together, we stick to the plan and we made the playoffs.”

And as fate would have it, Tuesday’s game comes on the anniversary of another fabled Caps-Flyers clash. On April 16, 1988, Caps’ center Dale Hunter scored on an overtime breakaway, beating Flyers’ goalie Ron Hextall to give the Caps a 5-4 victory in Game 7 of their opening-round series with Philly, finishing a Washington comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

That Hunter overtime goal 36 years ago delivered the Caps’ first-ever win of a best-of-seven playoff series.

This year’s version of the Caps is a resilient bunch that has stepped up in virtually every must win situation this season, with Saturday’s 4-2 win over Tampa Bay and Monday’s triumph over the Bruins being the latest examples. They didn’t just win over the Bruins, they turned in one of their two or three best overall 60-minute performances of the season, limiting the B’s to just 16 shots on net, the fewest shots they've yielded in a single game this season.

Charlie Lindgren stopped them all for his sixth shutout of the season, and his second over the Bruins. John Carlson’s first-period goal stood up as the game-winner; four of Carlson’s six goals since March 1 have been game-winners, and he logged 29:33 of ice time in Monday’s win, a game in which the Caps were missing two of their top three defensemen – Rasmus Sandin and Nick Jensen – and in which they had three blueliners with fewer than 75 career games in their lineup.

“I thought we played really well in all three zones,” says Carlson. “I thought we should have had a lot more; we were swarming the net against a tough defending team. We got a lot of chances, and we didn’t get discouraged by not having a few more [goals] than we did earlier on in the game. And we found a way. Chucky came up with some big stops there, sporadically throughout the whole game, and when it’s tight like that, that’s enormous.”

Now, the Caps will take their game to Philly and try to eke out one more victory over a rested Flyers team that has been in the thick of the playoff chase for much of the season, to the surprise of many. Even though their offensive zone time on Monday didn’t pay the red light dividends they were seeking, the Caps hope to replicate that strong offensive mindset on Tuesday against the Flyers.

“It’s important, and I keep trying to reinforce it to the guys, ‘Don’t get frustrated,’” says Carbery. “Because when they don’t go in, you can sometimes start to deviate. And you can sometimes [think], ‘It’s not working this way, I’ve got to try something different, I’ve got to force something, I’ve got to make something out of nothing.’ And that’s where I feel like our guys’ process and understanding that they’ll go in, and, on top of it, you’re controlling play.

“Even if you’re not rewarded, we’re generating momentum, and then the next line gets a couple of opportunities, and then the next line. It’s trying to keep us real focused, and the group has done a really good job, and if it doesn’t go in, that’s okay. Stay with the process, and eventually, whether we’ve got to win 1-0 or 2-0, or if we capitalize on a few of those situations and we get it to three or four, like we would have liked to, but stick with the process.”

Just over a week ago, the Caps were lugging around a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) and they were struggling to score. They’re still scuffling to score; Washington has been limited to two or fewer goals in nine of its last 10 games. But the Caps’ overall game over the last week has been solid, their offensive play on Monday was encouraging, and they’ve yielded only 10 goals against in their last five contests (3-1-1).

“I think we’re comfortable with our game,” says Carlson. “We’re comfortable with how we need to play to have success, and the score didn’t show it, but I thought we played a really good game there, especially in the first two periods. It was a gutsy effort at a big time, and yeah, we’re confident in our game. We’ve got to use that and go win one more.”