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Flyers-Capitals Preview @NHL

The Washington Capitals spent most of the regular season with their backs to the wall, the product of starting with the NHL's worst record and needing to finish with a win nearly every time they took the ice for three weeks.

They've gotten used to relying on impressive comebacks - and they're getting close to perfecting them.

Coming off a four-goal rally to win Game 6, the Capitals will try to become the 21st team in NHL history to win a series after falling behind 3-1 when they host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday in Game 7.

It appeared Washington's revival from a 6-14-1 start - the league's worst - would be all for naught as Carolina was rolling toward the Southwest Division title in mid-March, with the second-place finisher likely not having enough points to make the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Southeast runner-up didn't qualify - but that team turned out to be Carolina, as the Capitals' 11-1-0 stretch vaulted them above the Hurricanes.

That late surge seemed like it wouldn't last into the playoffs, however, as Washington dropped three of its first four to Philadelphia in the East quarterfinals. Those four games featured just one goal from star winger Alex Ovechkin, whose 65 goals led the league.

Ovechkin didn't score in Game 5, but the Capitals won 3-2 to move the series back to Philadelphia on Monday. The Flyers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 6, and it appeared - once again - that Washington's season was on the brink of ending.

But second-period goals from Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin tied the score, and then Ovechkin took over. The former No. 1 overall pick gave the Capitals the lead on a breakaway early in the third, then added a power-play goal in the Capitals' 4-2 win.

"The stars, it seems to happen around them, whether it's John Elway and 'The Drive' or great baseball players getting the last at-bat," said coach Bruce Boudreau. "He was getting frustrated because they did such a good job on him, but he persevered and came through."

Philadelphia's physical play had bothered Ovechkin - the NHL's scoring champion - throughout the series, as it limited his chances to do damage with open ice in front of him.

Or at least it did until the third period of Game 6.

"All year I didn't have a chance to score on a breakaway," said Ovechkin. "I probably had one goal on a breakaway, I did what I always do and thank God it worked."

Teams that have fallen behind 3-1 in a seven-game series are 20-204, meaning the odds are seemingly still stacked against Washington as it heads back to the nation's capital. But home teams have a 77-44 record in Game 7 after Montreal's 5-0 victory over Boston on Monday.

Washington will face Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a win Tuesday, while Philadelphia would play the top-seeded Canadiens.

"There is still another chance," said Flyers center Danny Briere. "We have to forget what happened and leave it all on the ice over there. We know we can win there, we did it earlier in the series. That is all we have to think about."

Philadelphia, which is 6-6 in Game 7s, has lost two playoff series after leading 3-1. They are 1-3 in Game 7s on the road, with their only win coming at Pittsburgh in a second-round series in 1989.

The Capitals have played five Game 7s, and have lost four times. But their one victory was a memorable one. Dale Hunter scored a Game 7 overtime goal in 1988 for Washington to cap a 3-1 series comeback - against Philadelphia.

The Flyers will need better goaltending from Marty Biron - who had allowed at least three goals in every game but Game 2 - if they're to advance to the next round. But he'll have to reverse a negative trend. Biron is 0-5 on the second night of back-to-back starts this season.

Philadelphia's offense has been led by Briere, who leads all playoff scorers with six goals and 10 points.

Vaclav Prospal scored twice in the series opener, but has scored just once since, and Mike Knuble - who had five points in the series - has been ruled out for the series with a torn hamstring suffered in Game 5.

"They have the momentum, but now we have the desperation," center Mike Richards told the team's official Web site. "Hopefully that motivates us to play a full game. We have not played our best hockey the last couple of games. (Tuesday) we will better."

Washington hadn't gotten Ovechkin's best effort prior to Game 6, but unlike in the regular season - when it struggled to win when its star wasn't scoring - has gotten production elsewhere in the playoffs. Semin, Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green have three goals apiece in the series.

The Capitals, unhappy with their goaltending situation, traded for veteran Cristobal Huet in late February, and though Huet has been far from brilliant, he made several key stops Monday when his team was trailing 2-0.

Huet is 1-2 this season in the second game of back-to-backs.

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