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Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson led the way on Saturday as the Capitals put together a strong performance in a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The victory gives Washington a four-point lead atop the East Division over the New York Islanders who are idle. The Caps also hold a five-point cushion over the Pittsburgh Penguins who play later on Saturday.
Here is how the win happened.
Ovechkin and Carlson
Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson were on top of their games Saturday and Flyers goalie Alex Lyon proved to be the victim.
Less than four minutes in, Ovechkin set up in his left-circle office and fired a one-timer that hugged the ice. He didn't need the height though as it beat the outstretched pad of Lyon to the back of the net. He struck again on the power play right off the faceoff at the top of the office to beat Lyon again. Ovechkin actually drew the penalty that led to his second goal and later recorded an assist. He was just on his game in every way Saturday.
With two goals, Ovechkin now has 730 in his career and sits just one shy of tying Marcel Dionne for fifth all-time. Ovechkin also has 269 career power play goals and is five away from tying Dave Andreychuk for the most all-time.
Carlson had an assist on all four of Washington's first four goals and recorded the first four-assist game of his career. That may be surprising considering the way he seems to wrack up the points, but it's true. Carlson had reached three assists eight times prior to Saturday's game.
Allow a goal late, score one early
After a good start to the game, Washington took its foot off the gas towards the end of the first and got burned. Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov scored with just one second remaining in the period, tying the game at 1.
Late goals can be a major momentum swing and suddenly Philadelphia had some confidence after a period in which it was outplayed. That confidence was dashed just 33 seconds in by Dmitry Orlov with a great response by the Caps.
Washington did a good job pinning the Flyers deep early on. As the Caps tried to work the cycle, Carlson whipped the puck around the boards. It curled around and popped out right to Orlov who one-timed it for the goal. The shot hit off a Flyers player who came out to block the puck and the deflection was enough to fool Lyon.
Orlov now has seven goals on the season, which matches his goal total from the past two seasons combined.
A beautiful pass by Wilson
With respect to Ovechkin and Orlov, the prettiest goal of the day came from Evgeny Kuznetsov thanks to a fantastic set up from Tom Wilson.
Wilson broke the puck into the offensive zone and the team looked to start the cycle. Kuznetsov returned the puck to Wilson who was behind the net and he skated it out to the half-wall. Two Flyers were on him, but all five skaters were watching him and no one was watching Kuznetsov who was cutting right down the middle.
Wilson took the puck on his forehand as he wheeled around from the back of the net, then fooled everyone as he spun and delivered a back hand pass right to Kuznetsov who cut through the stunned defense. Kuznetsov then delivered the puck to the top shelf.
Sheary shuts the door on the comeback
The Flyers put on a plucky performance and just would not go away in this one. In the third period, Wade Allison pulled Philadelphia to within one, but Conor Sheary responded just over two minutes later to deflect a shot from defenseman Justin Schultz into the net.
At that point, all the fight left the Flyers who took two penalties after that goal as Sheary had essentially diffused the comeback bid. Anthony Mantha would add an empty-net goal to finish off the game. That is a franchise-tying mark, too - a goal in his first three games with the organization. So far that trade deadline move with Detroit for Jakub Vrana is paying dividends for GM Brian MacLellan.