WASHINGTON (AP) — Even though the Washington Capitals didn’t have peak emotional energy from the drop of the puck, they had Braden Holtby.
They’re used to this by now.
Holtby stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced to compensate for the slow start by his teammates, and the defending Stanley Cup champions beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Sunday afternoon to snap a two-game skid. The 2016 Vezina Trophy winner was in late-season form to help the Capitals kill off three of four Philadelphia 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 on Monday 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.”
NOTES: The Capitals swept the season series against the Flyers for just the second time in franchise history. … The start of the game was delayed several minutes as officials sorted out a lineup discrepancy. Philadelphia initially had Justin Bailey listed as a scratch, but he was in the lineup in place of Phil Varone. … Capitals C Evgeny Kuznetsov played after missing Saturday’s practice with an illness and LW Carl Hagelin returned after missing Friday’s game against Minnesota with an illness. … The sickness going around the team coupled with Kempny’s injury led the Capitals to call up D Tyler Lewington as an extra body. … Captain Alex Ovechkin remained stuck on 48 goals as he looks for his eighth career 50-goal season.
Flyers: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
Capitals: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday in the first half of a home-and-home series.
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