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Five keys for Flyers vs. Capitals, Game 6

Pressure is on Washington against Neuvirth, Philadelphia

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers play Game 6 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday (noon ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Capitals lead the best-of-7 series 3-2, but the Flyers won the past two games.

Here are five keys for Game 6:

1. Score first: The team that has scored first has won four of the five games. The exception was the Capitals' 6-1 win in Game 3. 

The first goal has been particularly important for the Flyers the past two games. In Game 4, Shayne Gostisbehere's power-play goal 5:51 into the first period got the Flyers off to the fast start they desperately needed after being blown out in Game 3. In their 2-0 win in Game 5, Ryan White's goal 7:52 into the second period was all they needed with goaltender Michal Neuvirth negating the Capitals' 44-11 advantage in shots on goal. 

"We've been chasing the last couple of games because we haven't found the back of the net, so it is tougher," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It's tougher to chase games. You need two (goals) to win instead of one and if you give up (another) one, then you're chasing even more. So, that's why I say you've got to play the right way. Even if you're pressing to get the game tied up, you've still got to play the right way or all of a sudden you're down by two."

Video: PHI@WSH, Gm5: White scores off deflection in front

2. Pressure: It's all on the Capitals after the Flyers won the past two games to get halfway to becoming the fifth team in NHL history to come back from 3-0 down in a series to win. How the Capitals handle it could determine their fate.

Another Flyers victory Sunday would send the series back to Verizon Center for Game 7 on Wednesday and elevate the talk about the Capitals' history of not being able to finish series. The Capitals have blown a two-game lead (2-0 or 3-1) 10 times in their history but never a 3-0 lead. They are 1-8 in their past nine attempts to close out a series, including 1-6 over the past two seasons.

3. Discipline: The Flyers' fortunes have improved the past two games as they've spent less time killing penalties. After being shorthanded nine times and allowing five power-play goals in Game 3, they were shorthanded five times total over the past two games and didn't allow a power-play goal.

An adjustment on their penalty kill to be more aggressive pressuring Nicklas Backstrom along the right half-wall and John Carlson at the point has been effective, but it's mostly been that the Capitals haven't had as many opportunities to work with. Conversely, having to kill off five Flyers power plays in the opening 28 minutes prevented the Capitals from getting into a flow 5-on-5 in the first half of Game 5.

4. Neuvirth: The Flyers have done some things better in the past two games and demonstrated once again that they are a resilient bunch. This series would be over already, however, without Neuvirth's heroics in stopping 75 of the 76 shots he's faced the past two games. 

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol's decision to switch from Steve Mason to Neuvirth before Game 4 has been a turning point. Neuvirth began his career with the Capitals, so they know him well, but they're still having trouble solving him.

"We just have to keep pounding the goalie (with shots) and I think the only thing we need to do different is get more bodies in front of the net," Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky said. 

5. Burakovsky-Kuznetsov-Williams: The Capitals' second line of Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams has yet to score an even-strength point in the series. Kuznetsov had a power-play goal off a fortunate bounce in Game 3 (his lone goal since March 1), Williams has two power-play assists (both in Game 3) and Burakovsky is seeking his first point of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The line has had some strong shifts with puck possession and sustained pressure in the Flyers' end, but it hasn't led to enough quality scoring chances.

"We had some good chances, but we need to go more to the net and maybe score some dirty goals," Kuznetsov said. "It's tough to play hockey when you didn't score the goals you want."

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