Flyers-Capitals 5 Things, Game 5: Can They Stop Ovechkin Again?

Flyers at Capitals - Game 5
7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet
Capitals lead series, 3-1

Facing elimination Wednesday night, the Flyers showed the desperation needed to win a playoff game and extend the series another day. They'll have to do the same Friday night.

The Eastern Conference quarterfinals 1-8 matchup heads back to Washington, D.C., for Game 5 at the Verizon Center, as the Capitals look to put away the Flyers on home ice.

Here are five things to know as the Flyers seek to stave off tee times once more:

1. The force awakens
Wednesday night's win was a culmination of positives that were missing in Games 1-3, but most importantly, the Flyers' special teams awoke after being lost in the woods.

Shayne Gostisbehere, on his 23rd birthday, broke through on the power play to give the orange and black their first power-play goal of the series following an 0-for-13 stretch in the first three games. It was his first career playoff marker in his fourth postseason game.

The Flyers' power play finished 1 for 2 in their 2-1 victory in Game 4. Gostisbehere's goal pushed the Flyers to a 1-0 lead 5:51 into the first period Wednesday. It was the second straight game they took an early lead, but this time they held it longer than Game 3.

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"It was a relief," Gostisbehere said. "We've got a lot of bounces and they weren't really going our way. So it was good to get on the board early, especially. It set the tone."

Washington dictated play on special teams through the first three games. Before Wednesday night's Game 4, the Capitals' power play was 8 for 17 and their penalty kill was 13 for 13.

In Monday's Game 3 debacle in which the Flyers were assessed 51 penalty minutes, the Caps registered five power-play goals in a 6-1 rout overshadowed by BraceletGate.

After the mess that was Monday night, the orange and black were mythological in saying the best way to kill the Capitals' PP was to stay out of the sin bin. Obvious, but true.

And on Wednesday night, the Flyers did just that. They were shorthanded just twice in the 2-1 win and killed off both power plays, though one was abbreviated.

Special teams has been the major difference in the series. While Washington owns a 13-4 scoring differential through four games, it's a lot closer at even strength at 5-3.

As the Flyers found out in Game 4, playing five-on-five hockey is the formula to skate with this powerhouse Capitals club. If the Flyers have any hope of coming back to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon for a Game 6, they'll have avoid taking penalties again.

2. A Neu hope
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol didn't have much choice but to start Michal Neuvirth in Game 4, and while Neuvirth was solid with 31 saves overall and 12 in a third period, he wasn't the reason there's a Game 5 Friday night. Still, Neuvirth will be in net again for the Flyers.

Neuvirth defended the fort well in the final stanza Wednesday night with Washington smelling blood down two goals. The Capitals fired 13 shots toward Neuvirth, beating the Czech netminder once on a rebound he should have swallowed up. But Neuvirth stayed strong.

Goaltending was not at fault for the first three losses. Steve Mason was excellent in the Game 1 loss last Thursday and was solid again in Game 2 despite a fluke goal. Game 3 was a complete disaster. Down 3-0 in a playoff series, a coach doesn't have many options to flip the script. One of those is a change in net, which Hakstol opted for and it worked.

Now, the Flyers' season lays in the hands of Neuvirth.

The 28-year-old will be making his 11th career playoff start Wednesday. In 11 postseason games - 10 starts - Neuvirth has a 2.18 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

Wednesday was his first playoff start since 2011, when he was a member of the Capitals. The good news for the Flyers is Neuvirth has a strong résumé against his former team.

In three games against Washington, he's 2-0-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. The odds are stacked against them, but the Flyers do have newfound hope.

3. Star struck
Another key the Flyers discovered Wednesday night was containing Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin didn't score in Game 4 and it was the first time this series it appeared the Flyers were able to break his skin and take him off his game.

If recent trends suggest anything, Ovechkin scoring Friday night is a good bet. Dating back to the regular season, it's been 10 games since Ovechkin has gone back-to-back games without scoring. This season, Washington is 35-5-2 when he finds twine.

Game 3 was not without scoring chances for Ovechkin. The winger nearly deposited one past Neuvirth from the same spot he scored Monday night, but the puck whistled just wide.

The Flyers were more physical with the Russian, something they weren't in the first three games. In fact, it was Ovechkin who carried the physical play in Games 1-3.

Ovechkin has three goals and four points in the first four games of the playoffs, with two of his tallies coming on the PP. He's another reason the Flyers have to stay disciplined.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Colin McDonald found his way into the lineup Wednesday because of Pierre-Édouard Bellemare's one-game suspension, and earned the right to stay in the lineup. In 14:19 of ice time, McDonald registered seven hits and two shots on goal. He provided energy on the fourth line. The physicality is something the Flyers can benefit from, and he'll be asked to do it again Friday night.

Capitals: Washington has so many weapons in its arsenal, but as has been the case this playoffs, the Caps' most dangerous weapon is their last resort, Braden Holtby. The goalie has a .966 save percentage with one shutout in this series and has shut down the Flyers. Going back to last postseason, Holtby is 9-8 with a 1.55 goals-against average. His .939 career save percentage is an all-time best among goalies in Stanley Cup playoff history.

5. This and that
• The Capitals are 14-30 all-time in clinching games.

• Scott Laughton was released from Jefferson Hospital Thursday and won't play in Game 5.

• The Capitals are scoring 9.25 points per 60 minutes, best in the playoffs.

• The Flyers' 85 blocked shots in four games rank second behind San Jose in the playoffs.

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