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Five keys for Flyers vs. Capitals, Game 3

Philadelphia has to channel emotions; Kuznetsov on verge of breakthrough

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers play Game 3 of their Eastern Conference First Round Series at Wells Fargo Center on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-DC, CSN-PH, CBC, TVA Sports). The Capitals lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.

Here are five keys for Game 3:

1. How does Mason respond?: Flyers goaltender Steve Mason played pretty well up until his gaffe on Jason Chimera's 101-foot goal, which turned out to be the game-winner in Game 2. After Mason's strong play down the stretch helped them get in the playoffs, the Flyers still have a lot of faith in him.

Mason would like to pay back his teammates for their support with a strong Game 3, though. His margin for error has been small with Capitals goalie Braden Holtby stopping 60 of 61 shots he faced in the first two games.

Video: Capitals' G Holtby talks about Steve Mason fluke goal

2. Special teams: This series might look different if the Flyers could have converted on one of their three first-period power plays in Game 1 or on their 5-on-3 advantage late in the first period of Game 2. They have created some scoring chances, but haven't done enough to make life difficult for Holtby in net. 

"We've got to get on the inside, and, when we're on the inside, we've just got to stay there," Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds said. "It's not going to be easy. We're going to have to show a little determination here, get to the front of the net, stop and keep whacking and hacking. If we've got to put someone on their butt while getting there, that's what we have to do."

After producing John Carlson's winner in their 2-0 victory in Game 1, Washington's power play went 2-for-2 in a 4-1 win in Game 2. With Carlson scoring through double screens on point shots in each game, Alex Ovechkin scoring from his usual spot in the left circle in Game 2, and T.J. Oshie getting chances from the slot, the Capitals have demonstrated they have multiple threats on the power play.

3. Capitals at their best: The Flyers were the better team 5-on-5 for much of the first two games. Despite not playing their best yet, the Capitals were able to win anyway because of Holtby and how well their special teams have played.
Expecting the Flyers to elevate their play trailing 2-0 in the series, the Capitals know they must do the same, particularly at even strength.

"We're still not exiting out of our zone as quick as we'd like," Oshie said. "That is also a credit to them for their forecheck and how well they pressure and pinch with their 'D,' but I think if we clean a couple things up, it will give us the puck a little bit more."

4. Kuznetsov on the verge: Second-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov led the Capitals with 77 points in the regular season, but hasn't scored a goal since March 1, a drought spanning 22 games including the playoffs, and has four assists in his past 15 games. He appears to be on the verge of breaking through, however, with a team-high 11 shots on goal in the first two games of the series.

"[Kuznetsov] is starting to feel it a little bit. You can tell the more shots he gets, the more puck possession he has," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I think he's skating really well. So, if he gets going, that will be another weapon we can really use right now."

Video: Hakstol and Flyers speak on returning home down 2-0

5. Channeling emotion: It will be an emotional evening with the Flyers playing at home for the first time since the passing of founder and chairman Ed Snider on April 11 and a pre-game video tribute planned. As much as the Flyers want to harness that emotion, they can't get caught up in it too much.

"We're here to win a hockey game," captain Claude Giroux said. "We have a game plan. We have to follow it and, obviously, we're going to have a little bit more emotion before the game, but when the puck drops we've just got to worry about the game."

Scoring first would help to feed the energy of the crowd and give the Flyers some much-needed confidence.

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