January 13, 2015

The Washington Capitals will of course be happy heading to the Verizon Center for their next shot at advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Given the cover they needed from their own projectile-happy fans, the Philadelphia Flyers might not mind the shift in venue as they try to extend the series.

Game 5 comes Friday night with the Capitals looking to crack Michal Neuvirth the way they got to Steve Mason in the first three games, and that all started with special teams.

No promotional wristbands were distributed in the Flyers' 2-1 home win Wednesday in Game 4 after being used as part of a pregame lights show for Game 3. Fans started tossing them onto the ice in the third period as Washington turned the game into a rout, eventually winning 6-1 to take a 3-0 series lead.

It's on to a second attempt at clinching, and the Capitals know a 3-1 lead is far from safe after dropping the last three games of their conference semifinal series with the New York Rangers last season.

"Every series is about getting the four. We need to get the four," coach Barry Trotz said. "The sooner you get the four, it gives you a couple opportunities to rest guys, heal guys (and get) a little mental break from the pressures of playoff hockey and a little more time to prepare."

The Capitals' special teams dictated the series through three games, going 8 of 17 on the power play before failing in two attempts Wednesday. They'd also gone 13 for 13 on the penalty kill before Shayne Gostisbehere's first-period goal gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead for a second straight game.

The 13-4 scoring advantage for the Capitals might not look so bad if the Flyers could stay out of the box. The series is at 5-3 in even-strength hockey.

"That was one of the reasons that we won the game," Neuvirth told the league's official website. "That was our goal. And we didn't take any stupid penalties. Just a great team effort for 60 minutes. That's the way we've got to play."

Another reason was Neuvirth, who made 31 saves after nine days off. He hadn't made a postseason start since 2011 with Washington, then faced the Capitals for 11 minutes of relief work with the New York Islanders last year. Overall, he's posted a 2.29 goals-against average and .918 save percentage on a 6-1-0 span, while Mason has 3.45 and .873 marks on a 1-5-1 slump.

Neuvirth, who spent five-plus seasons with the Capitals, is 2-0-0 with a 1.83 GAA and .941 save percentage in three games against his inceptive club.

Despite the win, Philadelphia is yet to really solve Braden Holtby, who has a .966 save percentage in the series. Dating to last year, he's 9-8 with a 1.55 GAA in the postseason.

Despite the lack of scoring, Philadelphia isn't dwelling on games past or those beyond Friday.

"We're not too worried about digging out a 3-0 hole right now," coach Dave Hakstol told the team's official website. "We came here (Wednesday) to win a hockey game. Now we've got to go on the road and to their building, we got to win a hockey game. It's pretty simple. We get one more and then we'll worry about the next one.

"Our team's had a real short-term memory and a real kind of mixed-up mentality all year long. I think that's part of the reason why our group has showed the resiliency that it has."

It might be that none of that matters if Alex Ovechkin gets back on the scoresheet. He has 10 goals in 10 games since last going multiple contests without scoring, and the Capitals are 35-5-2 this season when Ovechkin scores.

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