Flyers Finally See How to Beat Capitals, Keep Series Alive


Sam Gagner skated to the penalty box and plopped down on the bench, frustrated after being whistled for interference.

Really, the Flyers should have rejoiced.

The game clock read 5:29 of the second period, a noteworthy moment given it was the first instance in which the Flyers were penalized in Game 4 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series against top-seeded Washington.

And if the Flyers learned anything Wednesday night, it's that these big, bad Capitals aren't so fearsome when playing with the same number of guys as their opponent.

It showed at the Wells Fargo Center, as the Flyers kept their season alive for at least another game by beating Washington, 2-1, and slicing their series deficit to 3-1 (see Instant Replay).

"I think if you look at the series, five-on-five, it's been pretty much even," Wayne Simmonds said. "They've been getting the majority of the power plays and they've been scoring."

A lot - making this series look lopsided and almost unfair.

Entering Game 4, the Capitals, packed with skill and playmaking, were 8 for 17 on the power play in the series and 7 for 11 in the previous two games. They racked up four man-advantage markers in the third period Monday, making it a laugher at the Wells Fargo Center, as the Flyers' composure went out the window.

Wednesday night, the Flyers finally said no to the penalty box. As a result, they have renewed hope for the series. The Flyers put Washington on the power play just twice and went their first game of the series without giving up a man-advantage goal.

"We're a tough team to play with five-on-five," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "So it works in our favor."

When it comes down to that, the Capitals have outscored the Flyers by just two goals, 5-3. On the power play, it's 8-1.

The Flyers got their first on that end when Gostisbehere, on his 23rd birthday, nailed a slap shot from the point to give the Flyers another early lead, this one 5:51 into the game.

"I mean, it's a relief I think for our power play and takes the heat off of us a little bit," Gostisbehere said. "We've gotten a lot of bounces and they weren't really going our way so it was good to get on the board early especially, and I think it set the tone for the game."

The Flyers added breathing room when Andrew MacDonald beat Braden Holtby with a slap shot of his own 3:51 into the second period, handing the Flyers their first multi-goal game and lead of the series.

This was all before the Capitals ever had an opportunity to make noise on the power play.

"There hasn't been a lot of five-on-five in the first three games, so we'll just keep it at that for now," Washington head coach Barry Trotz said. "I knew it was going to be a five-on-five game today, I really thought that way. They would have to stay out of the penalty box and they did."

It certainly benefitted the Flyers' goaltending situation. The lousy special teams play forced Steve Mason out of the net and Michal Neuvirth in it for just his second game action since March 17. Neuvirth played well, making 31 saves and holding off the Capitals' furious push in the third period by allowing just one goal on 13 shots to close things out in the final stanza.

"I thought he was dialed in and seeing pucks," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "He looked like himself right from the opening part of this hockey game all the way through."

Neuvirth credited the Flyers' discipline.

"That was huge," he said. "That was one of the reasons that we won the game. That was our goal and we didn't take any stupid penalties.

"Great team effort for 60 minutes and that's the way we've got to play."

If they do, maybe this series gets interesting for the Flyers and hairier for the Capitals.

"We stayed out of the box and we didn't allow too many odd-man rushes," Simmonds said. "When we did, we were able to stop them."

Which provides the script.

Stay clear of that box and the Flyers have a chance. They can only hope that realization hasn't come too late.

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