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Five keys for Flyers vs. Capitals, Game 5

Washington needs killer instinct; Philadelphia looking for another fast start

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers play Game 5 of their Eastern Conference First Round Series at Verizon Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-PH, CSN-DC). The Capitals lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 after the Flyers stayed alive with a 2-1 win in Game 4 on Wednesday.

Here are five keys for Game 5:

1. Killer instinct, take two: The Capitals didn't play with enough urgency in Game 4 and failed in their attempt to sweep a best-of-7 series for the first time. With their lead trimmed to 3-1, they are in the same position as they were against the New York Rangers in the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they ended up losing in seven games.

"It's a different situation, but we're ready to bounce back," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It was not a good game [Wednesday]. They threw everything they had at us and played a good game. And we didn't get a chance to really get the power play out there, which has been our bread and butter in this series. So we'll just go back at it."

The Capitals are 1-7 in their past eight attempts to close out a series.

2. Start fast: The Flyers jumped to an early lead the past two games. They'd like to continue that trend in Game 5 and take the Verizon Center crowd out of the game.

"We've had a great start to every game in this series," Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds said. "It's up to us to continue to do that. We've got to keep that momentum going. We've got to keep consistent throughout the 60 minutes like we did last game."

The first period has been the Capitals' weakest all season. They were outscored 59-55 in the first period in the regular season before outscoring opponents 193-132 in the remainder of the game. In this series, the first period scoring has been even (2-2), but the Capitals have outscored the Flyers 11-2 in the last two periods, including 7-0 in the third.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm4: Gostisbehere blasts puck home for PPG

3. Challenging Neuvirth: In his first playoff start in nearly five years, Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 31 saves. But he wasn't really pressured on the 19 shots on goal he faced during the first two periods; many of them came from the outside with little traffic.

When the Capitals stepped up the pressure and got to the net more frequently in the third period, they got a rebound goal from T.J. Oshie and generated several other quality scoring chances. They'll need to do more of that against their former teammate in Game 5.

4. Discipline and structure: One of the keys to the Flyers' Game 4 victory was how they were able to play a physical game while cutting down on the number of penalties they took. After giving the Capitals nine power plays and allowing five power-play goals in Game 3, the Capitals had two power plays in Game 4, one for 28 seconds.

The Flyers' physical play also helped them generate sustained pressure in the offensive zone and control play for much of the first two periods. They had 22 of their 43 hits on Capitals defensemen, including 11 on Matt Niskanen.

"They've got such highly skilled [defensemen] back there," Flyers forward Ryan White said. "If you let them go untouched, they're going to embarrass you. They can all move the puck, they can all skate. That's been the goal since Game 1, just keep wearing them down, keep pounding them, keep making them turn and go back for pucks hard, and make them make plays."

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm4: Oshie backhands rebound to cut deficit

5. Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds: For Game 4, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol reunited what had been his most potent combination during the late-season push to make the playoffs, having Brayden Schenn replace Jakub Voracek at left wing on the top line with Simmonds and center Claude Giroux. The move paid off when Giroux, who led the Flyers with 67 points during the regular season, got his first point of the series with an assist on rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere's first-period power-play goal. Simmonds, who led the Flyers with 32 goals and was second with 60 points, also got on the score sheet for the first time in the series with two assists. Schenn had an assist Wednesday as well.

The Flyers will need that line to be even better in Game 5, with Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby having allowed four goals on 118 shots in the first four games.

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