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Posted at 03:23 PM ET, 03/23/2011

Capitals gut it out in battle of the best


(Matt Slocum - AP)
After the smoke cleared from a battle of two elite teams in Philadelphia, the Washington Capitals pulled out a 5-4 shootout victory and punched their ticket for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Heading into last night’s game, it would have been safe to say that with the Capitals missing key players like Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott, the Eastern Conference leading Flyers would have the advantage.

Surprisingly, the Caps jumped out to a 3-0 lead, which in most cases would have been more than enough goals, the way they have been playing defense. But early in the second period, the Flyers flipped the switch and began to pressure the Caps.

The Flyers dominated the neutral zone and puck possession in the second and third periods, and as a result found the back of the net four times before the end of regulation.

The fourth goal by the Flyers’ Danny Briere looked to be the game winner as they seemed to be playing harder and faster than the Capitals. But then out of nowhere, Marcus Johansson was able to make it home, scoring a critical goal with just more than three minutes remaining to tie the game up and send it into overtime.

The game went scoreless in the extra period. In the shootout, the Flyers struck first but Michal Neuvirth came up big with a stop, giving the scorching hot Alexander Semin the chance to put the game away — and he did just that.

The Caps blew the lead after the Flyers took their game up to a feverish pace. The Flyers were bodying the Caps, forcing the issue and setting the tone for what the playoffs will feel like. Without several of their best players, the resilient young Capitals still found a way to win the game, which makes this victory that much more important.

Neuvirth had some lapses last night, so let’s watch for who will be the goaltender for the next game. I'm sure Coach Bruce Boudreau will be interested to see how Semyon Varlamov holds up in a game, which should help with the decision as to who will be starting and active for the playoffs.

By  |  03:23 PM ET, 03/23/2011

 
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