By Michael Donovan
Braden Holtby stopped 35 of 36 shots and the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Caps beat the Flyers 3-1.
The 2016 Vezina Trophy winner was in late-season form to help the Capitals kill off three of four Philly power plays and avoid what would have been their first three-game losing streak since January.
”That’s a story line that we’re privileged to have sometimes is that when we’re not at our best, we’ve got one of the best if not the best in the league back there making up for some of our mistakes,” said winger Tom Wilson, who scored his 22nd goal of the season. ”That’s what a goalie’s for. He’s the last line of defense. We’re lucky to have him.”
Travis Boyd and Jakub Vrana also scored for the Capitals, who guaranteed themselves remaining in first place in the Metropolitan Division today when they’re scheduled to visit President Donald Trump at the White House. Holtby is one of two players who have said they will not attend.
Washington lacked some intensity the past two games after a showdown with the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. The Flyers took the play to them at times despite being on the second half of a back-to-back and having their playoff chances reduced to almost none in recent days.
Jakub Voracek scored a power-play goal and Brian Elliott made 27 saves for Philadelphia, which made a run from near the bottom of the league before running out of gas.
”We battled hard to get back in the standings and give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. ”It’s going to be real tough to get in. Two weeks ago, I think we had confidence in our group. We liked the way we were playing, and last two weeks it hasn’t gone our way.”
Washington is trying to avoid an ill-timed slump after losing top-four defenseman Michal Kempny for an indefinite period of time with a lower-body injury. With Kempny out, Capitals coach Todd Reirden mixed up his defensive pairings against the Flyers, moving All-Star John Carlson to his off side to play with fellow righty Nick Jensen.
”I think everyone knows how skilled he is and his capabilities out there, so it’s not surprising that he can play his off side,” Jensen said of Carlson. ”It doesn’t matter who I’m out there with. I think all the D are really great and easy to play with.”