March 31 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center
Time: 6:00 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio Network
Washington Capitals (16-17-1)
Philadelphia Flyers (14-17-3)
Washington heads to Philadelphia for an Easter Sunday battle with the Flyers. The game is the second in as many days for both teams, although Philly’s Saturday contest against the Boston Bruins was in the afternoon and on home ice. The Flyers don’t need to travel for this one, and they draw a few extra hours of rest as well. For the Caps, Sunday’s game is the middle match of a three-game road trip that opened in Buffalo on Saturday night.
The Caps stormed back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to draw even with the Sabres on Saturday and then Washington wrested the extra point away from Buffalo in the shootout. The victory was Washington’s fourth straight on the road, giving the team its longest road winning streak in more than two years.
Washington has won four games this season in which it has trailed after the game’s first 40 minutes, and three of them have come on the road. Only Anaheim (five) has won more games this season when trailing after two periods of play among all NHL teams.
Troy Brouwer’s first shorthanded goal as a Capital and his first since Nov. 25, 2009 pulled the Caps within a goal at 3-2 with 17:17 left in the third period of Saturday’s game in Buffalo. Mike Green netted the game-tying tally with goaltender Braden Holtby pulled for an extra skater with just 39.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Caps bested Buffalo in the shootout and left town with a 4-3 win.
With that victory, the Capitals were able to push themselves a point ahead of Buffalo and to within two points of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and to within five points of Winnipeg for the top perch in the Southeast Division standings.
“You want to get in, you’ve got to win,” says Caps right wing Joel Ward. “That’s the bottom line. However you want to look at it, that’s the answer. We’ve got to stop making excuses and hoping other teams beat other teams. In order to get things done you’ve got to do it yourself and that’s by winning games.”
Now the Caps head to Philly where they have a chance to pull to .500 on the season overall and also .500 on the road if they can manage a win over the Flyers.
“This is a huge trip for us,” says Green. “We’ve been playing well on the road lately and we need to continue that. As everybody knows, it’s harder to win on the road and these points are huge for us.”
Having had to come from behind to get two points on Saturday took more gas out of the Capitals’ collective tank as they head into another crucial contest in Philly on Sunday.
“A little bit, of course,” says Caps coach Adam Oates when asked if he had to ride his horses a little harder than he would have liked on Saturday. “Philly gets a little more rest than us. But we needed the points and we got them. Hopefully it gives you some confidence and we can turn it into a good start [Sunday].”
Caps captain Alex Ovechkin had 10 shots on net against the Sabres. He scored his league-leading 11th power play goal of the season and skated 25:57 on the night, a single-game season high. It’s the most ice time in a regular season game for Ovechkin since he skated 26:19 in a March 25, 2012 game against Minnesota.
“Even in the back of my mind,” says Oates, “I’m thinking about [Sunday] a little bit. I don’t want to wear him out. [I’m thinking about] who his linemates are going to be. I can’t wear [Nicklas Backstrom] out. That’s why I’ve taken Backy a little bit back on penalty killing, just to try to save some minutes for 5-on-5, especially if we’re behind. All those little decisions.
“I thought [Ovechkin] had really good tempo, he scored, he had a lot of good chances and I thought he was really into the game from the start [Saturday].”
Backstrom is slated to skate in the 400th game of his NHL career tonight against the Flyers in Philly. Backstrom’s 397 career points (106 goals, 291 assists) are tops among all active NHL skaters with 400 or fewer games played.
Philadelphia raised its home ice record to 10-5-2 with its 3-1 win over the Bruins on Saturday. The Flyers downed the Caps 4-1 on Washington’s previous visit to Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 27. The Caps won the first of the three meetings between the two teams this season by a 3-2 count on Feb. 1 at Verizon Center.
The Flyers’ win on Saturday over the Bruins halted Philly’s four-game skid (0-2-2). With Washington in town on Sunday, the Flyers will be seeking their first pair of consecutive victories in more than a month.
With 31 points on the season, the Flyers are in 14th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Philadelphia is only four points off the pace for the eighth and final playoff berth in the East, but the Flyers would have to leapfrog over six teams in a span of just 14 remaining games in order to achieve that improbable feat.
Philadelphia has lost two defensemen to injury in the last few days. Braydon Coburn has a separated shoulder and Andrej Meszaros underwent shoulder surgery. Both blueliners will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
Seventh-round Philly draft choice Oliver Lauridsen – a native of Denmark – made his NHL debut on the Flyers’ blueline on Saturday against Boston. Lauridsen logged 17:12 of ice time in his first taste of NHL action.
Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren also made a deal on Saturday, swapping a conditional pick in the 2014 NHL Draft to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for veteran rearguard Kent Huskins. Huskins only suited up for 11 of the Wings’ first 34 games this season.
Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has played in 32 of his team’s 34 games this season, including the last 17 in succession. Bryzgalov has started 17 straight games and 26 of the last 27 for Philly. He is second in the league in games and minutes played and is tied for the league lead in starts.
When playing both ends of back-to-back games this season, Bryzgalov is 3-2 on the second night with a 3.33 GAA and an .895 save pct.
The Flyers are the only team in the NHL with a better power play success rate (24.8%) than that of the Capitals (24.1%).
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