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FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
FLYERS (42-23-8--92pts) vs. CAPITALS (37-30-6--80pts)
1. SEASON SERIES
The Flyers and Caps play for the fourth and final time this season… The Flyers own a 2-1-0 record against Washington this season and after dropping their first meeting, they have won their last two games including a 1-0 victory at Washington on Mar. 4.
2. CLOSE AS THEY COME
The Flyers have had their last four games decided by one goal, going 2-1-1 in that span, and have had seven of their last 10 games decided by one goal, going 5-1-1 in those one-goal games… Overall the Flyers own a 23-5-8 record in one-goal games.
3. CAPS IN A RACE
The Capitals are in a tight playoff race, currently owning the eighth and FINAL playoff position with 80 points, which is a two-point lead in the standings on the Buffalo Sabres (78) and four-point lead on the Winnipeg Jets (76)… They are five points behind the Florida Panthers (85), who lead the Southeast Division and own the third seed in the Conference standings.
4. Player to watch CAPITALS: Alex Ovechkin
Ovechkin comes into tonight's game having scored five goals in his last four games… He also has great career numbers against the Flyers, recording 22 goals and 37 points in 25 overall games against the Flyers.
5. Player to watch FLYERS: Claude Giroux
The NHL's 2nd leading point producer was held scoreless in Tuesday's game vs. Florida… He has not been held without a point for two straight games in his last 33 games, dating back to Jan. 8-10… Giroux currently has 12 points (3G-9A) in 11 games during the month of March.
Earlier this month in the nation's capital, Washington's Alex Ovechkin repeatedly shot the puck at Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, but his Russian compatriot stopped every one of them. The two-time league MVP was slumping at that time, but has regained his scoring touch.
Bryzgalov, meanwhile, has been stellar between the pipes all month.
Coming off his second two-goal game in a week, Ovechkin and the Capitals conclude a five-game road trip Thursday night against Bryzgalov and the Flyers.
Washington (37-30-6) is vying for one of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spots and still hopes to catch first-place Florida in the Southeast Division. Making a fifth straight postseason appearance could come down to Ovechkin's play over the final nine games.
Ovechkin scored twice in Monday's 5-3 win over slumping Detroit, his second two-goal game in four contests. He has five goals in the last four after tallying four in his previous 14 games.
"He's been scoring pretty regularly now right down the stretch," coach Dale Hunter said, "and we need him to score."
That's certainly true, as the Capitals are 18-5-2 when Ovechkin scores but 18-23-3 when he doesn't.
Ovechkin had plenty of scoring opportunities against Philadelphia (42-23-8) on March 4, but Bryzgalov stopped all seven of his shots. Bryzgalov finished with 34 saves in the Flyers' 1-0 win, while Eric Wellwood scored the lone goal 47 seconds after coach Peter Laviolette took a second-period timeout.
Bryzgalov's blanking of the Capitals was his first of four shutouts this month for the Flyers, who are in fifth place in the East with 92 points - four behind Pittsburgh. He is 8-1-1 with a 1.27 goals-against average in March after falling for the first time in regulation with Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Florida.
The Flyers outshot the Panthers 36-13, but only Wellwood found the back of the net. Philadelphia also went 0 for 4 on the power play and is 2 for 19 with the man advantage in the last seven games.
"The message, especially with the power play, is to bring the puck to the net," Laviolette said. "Maybe we are looking to make too many plays or too many passes, but sometimes the simplicity of what you do on the power play is best."
The Flyers also may need to be concerned with slow starts after falling behind 2-0 in each of their last three games.
The Capitals trailed 2-0 in the first period in Sunday's 5-2 loss to Chicago, but responded by taking a 3-0 lead 15 minutes into Monday's win.
"That was probably the best period we've played all year," Jason Chimera said. "I thought after the first period, 'That's the Washington Capitals. That's what we can play like."'
With Tomas Vokoun nursing a groin injury, Braden Holtby made his second start of the season Monday and stopped 30 shots.
Michal Neuvirth, who has allowed four goals in each of his last two starts after shutting out Toronto on March 11, could get the call in Philadelphia. He stopped 22 shots against the Flyers earlier this month.
Bryzgalov has started all three games against the Capitals this season, stopping 65 of 66 shots in winning the last two after making 23 saves in a 5-2 home loss Oct. 20.
Ovechkin scored twice in that win, and has six goals in his last four games in Philadelphia.
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