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Caps newbies Dylan Strome, Connor Brown spark preseason win over Flyers

Capitals 3, Flyers 1

Dylan Strome beats Flyers goalie Samuel Ersson for a third-period goal Wednesday night in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)

PHILADELPHIA — Two Washington Capitals newcomers powered the offense Wednesday night, and backup goalie Charlie Lindgren played two strong periods in a 3-1 preseason win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Dylan Strome scored twice and Connor Brown recorded the first goal in a contest that tilted heavily in Washington’s favor. Brown found a bouncing puck in the Flyers’ zone and scored from the slot to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the second period. Strome’s one-timer from the right circle on the power play made it 2-0. Kevin Hayes scored for the Flyers before Strome added an insurance goal late in the third.

The Capitals’ next preseason game is Friday against the Red Wings in Detroit.

Here are four takeaways from Wednesday’s win:

Offseason signings flash

The goals by Brown and Strome eased some offensive worries. Washington struggled early, mustering two shots for the majority of the first period before a flurry late. The second and third periods brought more scoring chances for the Capitals and also showcased what Strome and Brown, two significant offseason signings, can bring to the attack.

“I thought they were good all night,” Coach Peter Laviolette said of the pair. “Their whole line [with Joe Snively] was really good. They worked, they got good skill, they complemented each other, and they brought a lot of speed. I thought Brownie did a good job at dogging pucks. … Stromer was around the puck all night. Really good.”

Erik Gustafsson could be the key piece for the Caps' defense

With Nicklas Backstrom (hip) and Tom Wilson (knee) out to start the season, Washington will look to add offensive production to its top two lines. Brown and Strome are likely to occupy those lines, with Strome looking to build on his career-best 22 goals last season with Chicago. Brown was a 20-goal scorer for Toronto during the 2016-17 season; he had 10 goals last season with Ottawa.

Strong debut for Lindgren

There isn’t a competition for the backup goaltender role, but Lindgren still needs to “prove himself,” General Manager Brian MacLellan said. Lindgren, 28, appeared in just five games last season with the St. Louis Blues but is entering his seventh NHL season. He will see a healthy amount of action as Darcy Kuemper’s backup.

On Wednesday, Lindgren made his preseason debut. He stopped all 13 shots he faced in 40 minutes.

“That was exactly how I would want my first game to go — getting the feel of the puck again, seeing game action — so I didn’t think my job was too hard tonight,” Lindgren said. “I thought our guys did an awesome job, obviously. It’s a good way to build a little bit of confidence.”

Zach Fucale played the final period. Lindgren’s night was highlighted by his first-period save on Wade Allison, who tried a backhander in front. Beyond that, Lindgren went largely untested.

A ‘stronger’ Aliaksei Protas?

Aliaksei Protas, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward entering his second NHL season, has impressed during camp. He’s noticeably bigger and stronger than he was last year, and his speed and physicality have stood out in the first two preseason games.

Not only does Protas appear more comfortable and confident, but he looks like a player ready for a full-time role. But while he made his NHL debut and played 33 games last year for Washington, it seems unlikely Protas will suit up for the Capitals on opening night. Instead, he probably has a better shot to be the Capitals’ 13th forward.

Washington has given him ample opportunities to make his case. He has played on lines with veterans, including Marcus Johansson on Wednesday night and with Nic Dowd and Conor Sheary on Sunday against Buffalo.

Against the Flyers, Protas looked quicker and faster. He said last season that he was working on his skating.

“He’s great. It looks like he got — I don’t want to say bigger, because he’s a big boy,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “But it looks like he got a little stronger over the offseason. He’s working hard out here. He looks more comfortable in this camp as far as making plays — doesn’t seem very jittery.”

A fit for Axel Jonsson-Fjallby?

With Carl Hagelin out indefinitely with eye and lower-body injuries, Washington needs a fourth-line left winger.

When Hagelin suffered his eye injury in March, the Capitals recalled Axel Jonsson-Fjallby from the Hershey Bears, their American Hockey League affiliate. Washington saw Jonsson-Fjallby as Hagelin’s short-term replacement on the fourth line — and potentially as a long-term solution, too. Jonsson-Fjallby ended up playing 14 games for the Capitals but did not suit up in the postseason.

This season, Jonsson-Fjallby has yet to emerge as an option for that fourth-line spot. Johansson and Sheary have occupied that left wing role during training camp, with Jonsson-Fjallby cycling in only once during practice. His assets include speed and penalty killing.