WASHINGTON – The Philadelphia Flyers were 11 points removed from the second Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference before playing the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Their chances of qualifying seem slim, but consistently winning can at least keep them relevant.
Philadelphia won for the fifth time in six games in a 3-1 victory against Washington at Verizon Center.
"Definitely a solid 60 minutes," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "It was a real good defensive game. We played really well defensively. Offensively we could do more, but I thought they were solid all-around moving the puck. Our play without the puck was great."
Flyers goaltender Steve Mason sustained a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return. He will not accompany the team to the next game of their road trip against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. General manager Ron Hextall said that Anthony Stolarz will be recalled from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League.
Ray Emery made five saves and allowed one goal in relief of Mason. Mark Streit, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers (23-22-8).
"I thought the whole game we played really well, especially defensively," Streit said. "It was a tough moment losing [Mason]. … [Emery] came in and did an unbelievable job, made some key saves especially on the PK. He had a really good game and overall battled hard and it was a good team effort."
Alex Ovechkin scored his 33rd goal for Washington (28-16-10), which had a season-low 14 shots on goal despite six power plays. It was the Capitals’ lowest shot total since they had 12 against the New Jersey Devils on March 18, 2011.
"I didn’t like our execution," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "You can’t get shots if you miss the net. You can’t get shots if you don’t get pucks to the next level. We turned a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone, and you’re not going to get any shots. But there wasn’t enough urgency in our dressing room tonight. Very disappointing."
Goaltender Braden Holtby made 22 saves. The Capitals had a three-game winning streak end for the sixth time. They have yet to extend one to four games.
"It feels like maybe we're relaxing a bit after three in a row when we played good, so we've got to have a better attitude after a couple wins in a row," Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "We've got to learn how to put more wins together."
The Capitals had two power plays within the first 10 minutes of the game, but didn’t take a shot on goal during either. A Washington turnover created a shorthanded chance for Sean Couturier, whom Holtby stopped with a left-pad save.
Washington didn’t have a shot attempt until 11:57 when Backstrom forced Mason to make his first save of the game.
"On our side, too many turned-over pucks in the neutral zone, didn’t get pucks behind their D, tried to come up the middle against a team that clogs the middle and we didn’t recognize that early enough in the game," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "I mean, it was 12 minutes before we got our first shot and that was a backhander from the blue line."
Streit gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead 50 seconds into the second period when his point shot knuckled through traffic and past Holtby.
"I think everybody worked really hard," Streit said. "The defensemen had really good gaps so we didn’t give them a whole lot of time and space. Our forwards were working back really hard as well. We had pretty good breakouts and certainly one of the better games this year."
Washington’s sluggish power play, which had been outshot 2-1 by Philadelphia during its first three chances, finally engineered some offense during a second-period opportunity, leading to Ovechkin’s goal at 13:29. After an 80-second two-man advantage expired, Ovechkin settled a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov in the left circle and beat Emery with a wrist shot.
"It’s not good enough," Ovechkin said. "Power play was terrible today. All five guys didn’t get any opportunities, myself, you know, missed the shots and the stick. It’s tough."
Simmonds scored on the rush at 3:50 of the third period, his team-leading 19th goal and first at even strength since Dec. 23.
The Capitals pulled Holtby with 1:59 remaining, but their 6-on-5 advantage resembled their ineffective power plays.
Capitals forward Tom Wilson received two minor penalties during a scrum along the end boards, giving the Flyers a late power play that ended Washington’s comeback attempt. Voracek scored an empty-net goal with 37 seconds left.
"That’s as well you can play defensively," Emery said. "We really took everything away from them especially [because] they’ve got dangerous players over there and to limit the chances like we did tonight that’s a solid game."