Ovechkin leads Capitals past Flyers for fourth straight win
By AARON BRACY Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Peter Laviolette loves this season’s schedule, but probably hates that the Capitals don’t get yet another game against the Flyers.
Alex Ovechkin scored, Carl Hagelin had a goal and an assist and Washington held on late for its fourth straight win, 5-4 over Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Nick Jensen, Daniel Sprong and Nic Dowd also scored for Washington, which has won eight of nine. The Capitals swept three games against the Flyers this week, all of which were in Philadelphia.
“It’s like a playoff series,” Laviolette said. “The thing about a playoff series I like is we’re just focusing on one team. When you play a team a lot, it gives you a feel of the playoff series. I like this season, I like the two-game sets, it’s awesome, shows some great hockey, a different way to coach. I like it better.”
Nolan Patrick, James van Riemsdyk, Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers, who have lost four of five to drop to fifth place in the East Division.
“We’re going through a challenging time right now,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’re falling behind in games and trying to battle back. We’re making a few mistakes. (But) our guys are competing and battling. If we continue to do that, we’ll be in good shape.”
Ovechkin pulled within one of tying Phil Esposito for sixth on the NHL’s career goals list when he fired a wrist shot from just above the circle past Carter Hart’s blocker side on the power play to make it 4-2 with 6:50 left in the second. It was the 716th goal for Ovechkin, who also has 39 tallies in 61 career games against Philadelphia.
Hart replaced Brian Elliott in goal after Jensen made it 3-1 3:05 into the second. Hart, the Flyers’ regular starter, has been slumping lately and Elliott got the start Saturday for the fourth time in the last six contests.
But Elliott struggled in the first period when the Capitals scored twice.
“There’s no doubt he was fighting it a little bit,” Vigneault said.
Sprong opened the scoring 4:40 into the game on a fluky goal when he chipped it over Elliott after the Flyers goalie couldn’t corral the rebound on Jakub Vrana’s shot from the outside.
Hagelin made it 2-0 with 6:39 remaining in the first when he slid a rebound from right in front through Elliott’s legs.
Van Riemsdyk’s team-leading 12th goal brought Philadelphia within 2-1 early in the second. He intercepted Sprong’s clearing attempt and shot a wrister from the slot past Ilya Samsonov’s glove side.
Jensen made it a two-goal game again 29 seconds later. It was his second in the last four games after going scoreless in 108 games with the Capitals over the last three seasons.
“Just call it bad luck,” he joked.
Patrick netted his third of the season on a one-timer from the left circle to pull the Flyers within one before Ovechkin put the visitors ahead two goals again.
Hart allowed yet another easy one on Dowd’s deflection of Garnet Hathaway’s seemingly harmless wrist shot from the point with 15½ minutes remaining. The puck trickled through Hart’s pads, and that goal would prove to be crucial because Gostisbehere scored with 6:53 left and Giroux with 2:57 remaining to make it a one-goal game.
IN AND OUT
Capitals C Lars Eller returned after missing Thursday’s contest against Philadelphia for personal reasons. However, he left in the first period with a lower body injury and didn’t return. Laviolette said afterward that Eller is day-to-day.
OUT AND IN
Flyers D Phil Myers was back in the lineup after being benched for Thursday’s game against Washington.
Capitals: At Buffalo Monday night.
Flyers: At Rangers Monday night.
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