Capitals 5, Flyers 2: Playoff hopes take another gut punch from the defending champs



Once again, the Flyers couldn't quite hang with the defending champs, who are doing serious damage to the orange and black's flickering playoff hopes.

The Flyers suffered their third regulation loss in as many tries against the Capitals, this one a 5-2 decision Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Thursday kicked off a stretch of seven games in 11 days for the Flyers (34-28-8), who have made a mad push in the postseason race, entering the night 18-4-2 since Jan. 14.

However, they're running out of time. Fortunately for them, the Canadiens lost to the Islanders Thursday night, 2-1, which kept the Flyers five points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot with 12 games remaining (see standings). Before puck drop, gave the Flyers an 8.1 percent chance to make the playoffs, while had them at 7.6 percent.

What might turn out to be the Flyers' death sentence is an 0-2-2 mark against the Blue Jackets and being dominated by Washington. Overall, the Flyers are 9-11-2 against the Metropolitan Division.

The Capitals (42-22-7) have won 10 of their last 12 games, outscoring the opposition 45-30.

They've won the first three matchups with Flyers by a combined score of 15-8 and host the orange and black March 24.

• Washington just looks like it's in a different class than the Flyers. In three meetings this season, the Capitals have outscored the Flyers 13-4 through the first and second periods.

You can't expect to beat the top dogs by letting them dominate the first 40 minutes. It also hasn't helped that the Flyers have been without Jakub Voracek for two of the three meetings with Washington.

• The Flyers did little to help Carter Hart in the 20-year-old's first game action since Feb. 21.

Less than three minutes into the first period, the Flyers were scrambling and far too compact in the defensive zone, allowing Brett Connolly to score easily off a pass from Michal Kempny.

On Hart's second goal allowed in the opening frame, Travis Sanheim flubbed a clear attempt and then didn't find Lars Eller, who snuck behind the defenseman to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

After the Flyers trimmed the deficit to 2-1 just 1:03 into the second period, Connolly struck again. The Capitals' winger pounced on Philippe Myers trying to handle a bouncing pass, stripping the defenseman before beating Hart off an odd-man rush.

Hart, who missed time with an ankle injury, was not super sharp but the Flyers were all over the place trying to keep up with Washington, which can dissect the opposition as well as anybody in the league. Hart finished with 27 saves and will gave way to Brian Elliott on Friday night.

• Connolly, who was scoreless over his previous three games, killed the Flyers with his two goals and a primary assist. He has three goals against the Flyers this season.

• It's pretty silly if anyone is still questioning why the Flyers signed James van Riemsdyk in the offseason.

He cut the Capitals' lead to 2-1 during the second period with his 21st marker of the season. Since Jan. 10, Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko have 16 goals, while van Riemsdyk is right behind the two with 15.

From Oct. 9 to Nov. 13, the Flyers didn't have van Riemsdyk for 16 games because of a lower-body injury. If JVR didn't miss that time, he would have the third 30-goal season of his career.

Hard to argue with that.

• Braden Holtby, who shares the same sports psychologist as Hart in John Stevenson, beat the Flyers last week at the Wells Fargo Center and got them again Thursday. He's tough to knock off when he has a lead as Holtby made 22 saves for the victory.

• The Flyers were in the St. Patrick's Day spirit with some festive sweaters during warmups.

• The Flyers are right back at it Friday when they visit the Maple Leafs (7 p.m./NBCSP+). The Flyers are 6-5-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets but have been outscored 41-29.

Their only other meeting with the Maple Leafs this season was in Toronto on Nov. 24, a 6-0 loss in which Calvin Pickard allowed four goals on six shots before Anthony Stolarz took over in relief.

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