PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Wayne Simmonds and the Flyers are playing every game as if it’s the postseason. It paid off this weekend.
Simmonds scored two goals to lift the Flyers past the Washington Capitals 6-3 on Sunday night, capping a four-point weekend and helping Philadelphia solidify its playoff position.
“We desperately needed the two points and we played like we needed it,” Simmonds said.
Oskar Lindblom, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov and Jakub Voracek also had goals for Philadelphia (37-25-11, 85 points), which stayed in third place in the Metropolitan Division and moved within four points of the first-place Capitals (41-24-7, 89 points). The Flyers began play tied with Columbus, which was idle Sunday, but have a tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets.
Philadelphia scored all four of its goals in the third period of Saturday’s 4-2 comeback win at Carolina.
“It was critical,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of the weekend wins. “These are basically all playoff games right now. Real gutsy effort.”
Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 43rd goal of the season, and Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson had goals for the Capitals, whose four-game winning streak was snapped.
Washington rested Saturday and coach Barry Trotz expected his players to come out aggressively against the Flyers, who were playing their second game in less than 24 hours. He was disappointed that didn’t happen.
“You know they’re going to be in desperate mode,” Trotz said. “You know they’re going to give a good effort, but at the same time, we had all the advantage. We were in our beds last night watching the (Carolina) game.
“We talked about taking control of the game early, make it real hard. I don’t think we did that. We didn’t make it hard enough on them. We just played. We were chasing the game the whole night.”
The Flyers took the lead for good on Lindblom’s first career goal with 1:41 left in the second period. Voracek passed to the rookie in the slot, and Lindblom’s wrist shot went off goalie Philipp Grubauer’s blocker, off the pipe and then into the goal. The rookie went 12 straight games without a point before picking up an assist in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Carolina.
Philadelphia extended its lead to 3-1 with 18.3 seconds left in the period when Provorov’s wrist shot from the side boards got through traffic, deflected off defenseman Christian Djoos’ leg and past Grubauer.
Simmonds’ deflection of Robert Hagg’s slap shot made it 4-1 1:37 into the third period.
After Stephenson finished a 2-on-1 to pull the Capitals within 4-2 with 9:29 left, Simmonds scored his second of the night on a wrist shot from the slot that zoomed past Grubauer’s glove into the top-right corner.
Carlson’s backhander from a sharp angle with 3:53 left made it 5-3, and Voracek finished the scoring with an empty-netter with 37.1 seconds to play.
Hakstol felt Saturday’s win helped relax the Flyers, who had lost seven of eight entering Saturday.
“Took a little weight off,” he said. “Tonight, the focus was good and clear.”
Gostisbehere opened the scoring 2:15 into the second period on a one-timer after Claude Giroux’s clean win on the faceoff.
Washington tied it at 1 with 4:52 left in the second on Ovechkin’s goal. Travis Boyd set up the goal with a pretty pass from the slot, spinning to backhand to Ovechkin, who tipped it over Mrazek.
Mrazek, playing in his 11th game for Philadelphia after being acquired from Detroit, had a strong game until giving up Carlson’s tally. He stopped Nicklas Backstrom on a 2-on-1 in the first period and later made a good glove same on Dmitry Orlov’s slap shot to keep the Capitals scoreless in the first. Mrazek’s most important save may have been with 8:10 left after Washington pulled within two goals when he used his pad to deny Lars Eller from close range. He finished with 25 saves.
Grubauer returned to the net for Washington after struggling Braden Holtby made 22 saves in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. Holtby, the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner, had lost seven of eight and hadn’t played in four consecutive games entering Friday.
Grubauer made 29 saves.
NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body) didn’t play after being slashed in the left wrist/arm area in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. He is day-to-day. Stephenson replaced Kuznetsov. … Simmonds upped his season goals total to 23. … Philadelphia finished 3-1 in the regular-season series. … Hagg returned after missing the last four contests with a lower-body injury. … Washington D Brooks Orpik (lower body) didn’t play. He is day-to-day. … Flyers LW Michael Raffl (upper body) left in the second period and didn’t return.
Capitals: Host Dallas on Tuesday night.
Flyers: At Detroit on Tuesday night.