Flyers-Capitals Preview


Just when the Washington Capitals appeared to be coming out of their funk this week, they put forth a terrible effort.

The Philadelphia Flyers also can't find any consistent success, but their position isn't nearly as dire.

Though Philadelphia's chances of repeating as division champion aren't as good as those of its opponent Sunday night, Washington is the one outside the playoff picture following an ugly loss.

The Capitals were in a 4-8-3 slump before winning their final three games of February, sparking optimism they had turned things around and could win a fifth straight Southeast Division title. They're still very much within striking distance of first-place Florida, but the momentum is gone after a 5-0 loss to New Jersey on Friday which had the home fans booing their team.

"Got to regroup now and all those clichés," center Matt Hendricks said.

It matched the most lopsided loss since November for Washington, which trailed 3-0 after the first period and gave up a short-handed goal late in the second to fall behind by five.

"It's a complete knock on the guys in the room - all of us, myself included - for just having absolutely no response," forward Jeff Halpern said.

Besides falling to 4-19-1 when Alex Ovechkin plays but fails to record a point, the Capitals (32-27-5) missed a chance to move into the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. They remain one point behind eighth-place Winnipeg.

Philadelphia (35-21-7) is tied for fifth in the East, but unsteady play has dropped it 12 points behind the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers.

The Flyers have alternated wins and losses in their last seven games. They scored at least four goals in five games during that span but were shut out in the other two.

They've failed to win back-to-back games since Jan. 10-12 but have a chance to end that drought after defeating the New York Islanders 6-3 on Thursday.

"It is a very nice and important two points for the standings... trying to climb," said Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 21 saves in his seventh straight start.

Philadelphia gave up the first goal for a ninth straight game - this time after only 95 seconds - but responded to take the lead after the first period for just the second time in that span.

"Our starts have been absolutely horrible," winger Scott Hartnell said. "It seems like we're giving too much early. It takes us 10 minutes to get into the game."

Thursday's win came at a cost, with James van Riemsdyk breaking a bone in his left foot on a blocked shot. The winger must undergo surgery and will miss four to six weeks, meaning he likely won't return before the playoffs.

Van Riemsdyk had only been back for six games after a concussion kept him out more than a month.

A concussion has sidelined Nicklas Backstrom since early January, but he's still second on the Capitals with 42 points. Washington has averaged 2.23 goals without him, among the lowest-scoring teams in the league over the past two months.

Philadelphia is averaging a league-best 3.29 goals, and Hartnell set a career high Thursday with his 31st. He's one point shy of his career best of 60.

Flyers winger Matt Read had his second two-goal game Thursday after going 12 straight without a goal. He's among the rookie leaders with 18 goals and 38 points.

Washington had been on a 7-0-3 run in this series before a 5-1 home loss to the Flyers on Dec. 13 in the last matchup.