Washington Capitals beat Philadelphia Flyers to advance to second round

By Jeff Neiburg, The Sports Xchange  |  April 25, 2016 at 12:37 AM
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PHILADELPHIA -- In a series that highlighted their offensive inefficiencies, the Philadelphia Flyers did everything they could in the final 10 minutes Sunday to change the narrative and stave off elimination for the third straight game.

But Braden Holtby never broke.

The Washington Capitals goalie stopped all 26 shots the Philadelphia Flyers threw his way, including 11 in the third period, and the Capitals escaped Wells Fargo Center with a 1-0 win after finally getting a puck past Michal Neuvirth.

Washington won the series four games to two and moves on to the second round, where the Pittsburgh Penguins await.

After losing Game 5, the pressure was back on the Capitals, the league's best team in the regular season. They have a recent history of playoff failure, having not reached the conference final despite being a top-three seed three times since 2007-08.

"We've come a long way from last year," second-year coach Barry Trotz said. "When I first stepped behind the bench, I felt there was a little bit of nervousness in tight games. I think we've come full-circle where we're comfortable being uncomfortable."

The Capitals, who outshot the Flyers 44-11 in Friday's Game 5, outshot the Flyers 29-26 in Game 6.

Holtby was at his best in the third period. The 26-year-old goalie -- and likely Vezina Trophy winner -- stopped chances from Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds midway through the period and stood tall when the Flyers pulled Neuvirth for an extra attacker with 1:38 to go.

"We knew they were going to have a good push," Trotz said. "When you get goaltending like that, you've got a chance to win every night."

The Capitals finally solved Neuvirth 8:59 into the second period. Alex Ovechkin made a strong play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. The Capitals captain moved the puck to the slot to Marcus Johansson as Nicklas Backstrom camped out and readied for a one-timer on the right wing. Johansson wasted no time and fed Backstrom for a 1-0 Washington lead.

"Nick made a pretty perfect shot and we knew it was going to have to take a perfect shot to beat (Neuvirth)," Holtby said. "That was the goal we needed."

The goal broke a shutout streak of 106:21 for Neuvirth, who had stopped 93 of 94 shots prior to that after being inserted into the lineup for Steve Mason after Game 3.

"We just were calm and knew that if we put pressure (on) and play simple and play our way, we're going to get one or two," Ovechkin said. "We made a play and (Backstrom) scored a huge one. It kind of took the pressure off our shoulders."

Prior to the Capitals' goal, the Flyers had a great chance to get on the board first. After Backstrom was whistled for a double-minor high-sticking penalty, Matt Niskanen was immediately sent to the box for hooking Simmonds off the faceoff.

The Flyers, who had already killed a Capitals 5-on-3 at the end of the first period and into the beginning of the second, had two full minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage, but their dormant offense failed to capitalize.

As the second half of Backstrom's minor was being killed, Ryan White was called for holding the stick of Niskanen, who had been out of the box for 30 seconds.

The momentum had shifted, and Washington pounced on the opportunity.

"It's one of those things that we pride ourselves on as a penalty-killing unit, to turn momentum in those opportunities," Holtby said.

"From our standpoint, obviously that's one point where we could've pushed the momentum our way," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.

The Flyers went 1-for-21 in the series on the power play.

"They pressured us at every point," said the Flyers' Simmonds. "It was unfortunate we didn't get that going."

The Flyers scored just six goals in the six-game series, the fewest the Capitals have ever allowed in a best-of-seven series.

NOTES: The loss in Game 5 marked the first time all season Washington lost back-to-back games in regulation. ... Capitals F Jason Chimera was not subject to a disciplinary hearing from the NHL Department of Player Safety for his boarding penalty against Flyers RW Jake Voracek in the third period Friday night. ... The Flyers forced a Game 6 after being down 3-0 for the second time in franchise history. The first was in 2010, when they came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Boston Bruins. ... Philadelphia entered Sunday having killed off five straight Washington power plays after the Capitals went 8-for-17 with the man advantage in the first three games. They killed five more Sunday.

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