WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After seeing his team squander third-period leads in each of their last two losses, Washington Capitals first-year coach Adam Oates needed to see some resilience against the Philadelphia Flyers.
It didn't come easily, but third-period goals by forwards Wojtek Wolski and Troy Brouwer gave the Caps a two-goal lead and goaltender Braden Holtby held on at the end to give the Capitals a 3-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 18,506 at Verizon Center.
The Capitals (2-5-1) moved out of the Eastern Conference basement, one point ahead of the idle Florida Panthers, with the win.
"It doesn't matter if you win the Presidents Trophy and get into the playoffs or you squeak in," Brouwer said. "It's what you do in the playoffs. For us there are still those same expectations.
"We realize we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole here. But at the same time there's confidence in this group."
Looking for just their second win on the road, the Flyers (2-6-0) replaced the Capitals in the Eastern Conference basement.
"We just weren't good enough, especially in the first period when it was 1-1," said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored 10:30 into the third period to draw the Flyers within, 3-2. "You have to learn how to win those hockey games."
The Flyers grabbed an early lead when Bruno Gervais scored his first goal as a Flyer 11:43 into the second period.
Moments after a bulrush by Alex Ovechkin ended with him sliding into the Flyers' net, Gervais pounced on a Briere rebound for his first goal of the season.
The Capitals roared back with their biggest offensive burst of the season.
Nicklas Backstrom got it started with 2:18 remaining in the second period when he was sprung on a breakaway on a quick pass from John Carlson. Backstrom faked a forehand and beat Ilya Bryzgalov with a backhander. It was Backstrom's first goal of the season and it tied the score at 1-1.
"We really needed this one, especially in the position that we're in," Backstrom said. "We need the points."
The Caps came into the game 1-2-0 in games that were tied after two periods and they quickly built a two-goal lead on goals by Brouwer and Wolski just 3:46 apart.
Brouwer gave the Caps a 2-1 lead at the 3:57 mark. Parked in the left circle, he took a cross-ice pass from Mike Green, measured Bryzgalov and snapped a shot over the goalie's right shoulder.
With the Flyers on their heels, Wolski made it 3-1 at the 6:44 markstripped Luke Schenn of the puck in the neutral zone and streaked in alone on Bryzgalov, beating him with a backhand to the goalie's stick side.
The Flyers fought back when Schenn netted his first goal of the season at the 10:30 mark. Schenn planted himself in the crease and deposited Matt Read's shot off the right post behind Holtby to draw the Flyers to within 3-2.
Ovechkin did not record a point but got off a team-high seven shots.
"I thought it was the best game he's played this year, quite honestly," Oates said. "He was involved in the whole game."
NOTES. Capitals defenseman John Erskine could face league discipline after throwing an elbow to the head of Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds. No penalty was called on the play and Simmonds suffered a bloody nose. On the faceoff immediately following the hit, Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo dropped the gloves with Capitals forward Matt Hendricks, and both players were handed game misconducts. ... In an attempt to re-ignite stagnant offenses, both teams shuffled their top lines. The Flyers went with Danny Briere, Claude Giroux and Simmonds on a top line, while the Capitals tried Ovechkin on a line with Mike Ribeiro and Wolski. ... Flyers right wing Mike Knuble suited up against his former team for the first time this season. Knuble scored 59 goals in three seasons with the Capitals before signing with the Flyers, but he's also had success against the Caps, with 27 points in 38 career games against Washington. "There were some lean years for the Capitals," Knuble said before the game, "so don't believe all those numbers." ... The Capitals were without forward Brooks Laich (lower body) and defenseman Jack Hillen (shoulder), while the Flyers were without right wing Scott Hartnell (broken foot). ... The Capitals return to action Sunday when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time this season at 12:30. The Flyers' next game is Saturday at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.