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Holtby shuts down Flyers' last gasp, Wilson strikes first for third time in four games against Philly, Caps sweep Flyers, never trailing in any game, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Fort Holtby - Caps goalie Braden Holtby came within a whisker of a shutout in Sunday's 3-1 win over the Flyers, but the win and the two points was all that mattered to he and the Capitals. The Caps took a 1-0 lead into the second period, but a desperate Philadelphia team came up against its playoff mortality; the Flyers emptied their tank on the Capital One Center ice sheet in that middle period, drawing three penalties and pumping 20 shots on Holtby.

By the time Jakub Voracek managed to just slip a shot past Holtby's outstretched glove on the third of those Philly power plays late in the second, the Caps had increased their lead to 2-0 on a critical fourth-line forechecking goal in the middle of the frame.

The Flyers were clearly down to fumes by the third period, and those fumes weren't enough to spark the comeback needed to sustain an impressive midseason push that thrust them upward in the Eastern Conference standings under interim coach Scott Gordon.

Washington's own concern was rebounding after a lackluster effort in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Friday, a setback that left the Caps with consecutive defeats for the first time in nearly two months.

"That's a storyline that we are privileged to have sometimes," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "When we're not at our best, we've got one of the best - if not the best - in the league back there, making up for some of our mistakes and stuff. That's what a goalie is for; he is the last line of defense. We're lucky to have him."

Video: Postgame Locker Room | March 24

Holtby's 35-save win on Sunday was his 28th victory of the season, and it halted a personal three-game skid (0-2-1).

"They came hard," says Holtby of the Flyers. "Obviously their season was on the line, but I thought we did a good job, especially off the rush. We didn't give them too much five-on-five. They worked for what they got, but I thought for the most part it was plays that were in my grasp to stop, and it's one of those things. When you're in the [defensive] zone you've got to trust each other, and I thought we did that."

Taking What They're Giving - The Caps scored exactly five goals in each of their first three meetings against the Flyers this season, but didn't find as much time and space available to them in the neutral and offensive zones in Sunday's finale between the two rivals.

Washington managed to manufacture two of its three goals by simplifying and getting back to basics. Each of the first two Caps goals came off well-placed deflections of point shots.

"You can practice them," says Wilson, who scored early in the first when he redirected a Nick Jensen shot. "Some guys have a knack a little bit more for it. I played net-front growing up, so it was just something that I kind of learned and tried to pick up techniques on. Different guys are really good; obviously [T.J. Oshie] is pretty good at it. And obviously a little bit of luck goes into it; you try to tip it to an area, but it's kind of feeling it out and working at it."

The Caps were on the wrong end of an extremely lopsided 37-9 differential in shot attempts in the second, but they managed to manufacture a critical Travis Boyd tip-in tally on a rare forechecking foray in the middle of that middle period.

"I think we got a little away from our game there in the second," says Boyd. "And credit Philly; they did a good job of clogging it up a little bit. But at the end of the day, I think there were a lot of opportunities for us to get pucks in, and get a forecheck going a little more than trying to make plays at the blueline.

Video: PHI@WSH: Boyd scores on redirection to double lead

"We saw it there on my goal - a hard forecheck by [Andre Burakovsky] turns it over, and five or 10 seconds later it's in the back of the net."

Scoring Spread - Washington's third line has generated 36 percent of the Caps' scoring at five-on-five this month, but each of the other three lines supplied the scoring in Sunday's win over the Flyers.

Wilson scored a top-line tally in the first, Boyd represented the fourth line on the scoresheet in the second, and Jakub Vrana turned on the vroom in the third, scoring on a breakaway to put the Caps' second line on the board.

Vrana scored through the five-hole on his breakaway, and got another similar opportunity minutes later. He changed up his move, going to the backhand and nearly scoring again. The puck clanked off the post on the second bid.

"If you get a second breakaway a couple of shifts later like that," begins Vrana, "maybe the goalie is going to think you're going to shoot again or not. So I just tried to show him I'm going to shoot, and then take it to the backhand. I missed by a little; just little things. 

"But that's okay. It's important we won today. The game is over, now we focus on tomorrow already."

First Strike - Wilson has scored the game's first goal six times this season, tops on the team. Half of those first goals were scored against the Flyers; he scored at 4:21 of the first against Philly on Jan. 8, at 5:55 of the first in Philly on March 6, and at 3:52 of the first in Sunday's finale against the Flyers. He also scored a second-period goal against them in the March 14 meeting at Wells Fargo Center, tallying in all four games against the Flyers.

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | March 24


The Super Sweep - Not only did the Caps sweep the four-game season's series from the Flyers in 2018-19, but three of those wins came in the month of March, dealing a harsh blow to Philly's late surge for a playoff berth. All four wins came by a multiple-goal margin, and the Caps never trailed at any point in the four contests.

Washington obviously scored first in all four games, and the only time Philly was even with the Caps after that came on Jan. 8 in the first meeting between the two teams when Voracek scored at 9:28 of the first to make it 1-1 game. It stayed that way until the second when Oshie scored the first of three unanswered Washington goals, and it was the longest stretch during which the Caps and Flyers were even during the 240 minutes they played against one another this season.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears dropped a 4-1 Sunday afternoon decision to the Cleveland Monsters on the shores of Lake Erie. It was their second loss in successive nights to the same foe; the Monsters also prevailed over the Bears on Saturday, winning 5-2.

After a scoreless first, Cleveland struck twice in the second, getting a power-play goal and a shorthanded tally to take a 2-0 lead to the third. At 2:50 of the third, the Bears halved that lead on Maximilian Kammerer's second goal of the season, Brian Pinho and Ryan Sproul assisting.

That was as close as the Bears would get, as Vitek Vanecek fell to 17-10-5 on the season with a 29-save effort in the Hershey nets.

The Bears will be back in action again this Saturday when they host the Providence Bruins at Giant Center. With nine games remaining on the regular season slate, the 36-24-3-4 Bears are tied with Providence for third place in the AHL's Atlantic Division, five points ahead of fifth place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 25:07 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on goal and nine shot attempts … Wilson led the Caps with five hits … Nick Jensen led the Caps with five blocked shots, and his 20:45 in ice time is the most he has had in a game since coming to Washington in a deal with Detroit a month ago … Nic Dowd won four of six face-offs (67 percent).

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