PHILADELPHIA -- Many thought this series would not go more than five games. The Philadelphia Flyers have avoided elimination twice and will try to do so a third time when they host the Washington Capitals in Game 6, Sunday at noon at Wells Fargo Center. The Capitals, who were heavily favored to win the series, hold a 3-2 lead. Here’s what to watch for:
How it got this far: Most experts picked the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals to dismiss the Flyers in five games. And that outcome seemed likely after Washington grabbed a 3-0 series lead. But a desperate Flyers team made a goalie change, and Michal Neuvirth was outstanding in Games 4 and 5, leading to consecutive wins. He’s made 75 saves, including 44 during a 2-0 shutout win in Game 5 Friday in Washington. The Flyers managed only 11 shots. To force a Game 7, Philadelphia needs more from its offense, because relying solely on Neuvirth against a potent Capitals team is not a smart game plan. "We need a better effort from our group," said Flyers GM Ron Hextall. The Caps need to finish this series on Sunday because Philadelphia would have all the momentum in a Game 7 after winning three straight. The Capitals realize Neuvirth has been the difference. "Listen, he played a great game,” said Justin Williams. "Sometimes you tip your cap and say, 'Great game.' We know in the long run, if we play the way that we can, and play the way we did [in Game 5], for the most part something right is going to go in our direction and we can’t get frustrated if it doesn’t." It also helps that the Flyers have scored first in the last three games. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby has been solid in this series but hasn’t had much puck luck in the last two games.
Any time now: The Capitals are getting offensive production from Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie, but Williams has only two points. A three-time Stanley Cup winner, Williams is known as “Mr. Game 7.” Well, he needs to produce in Game 6 so the Caps don't have to play a Game 7 in this series. Although Kuznetsov has scored, Williams and Andre Burakovsky have been held scoreless. "We watch video together as a line, all our shifts, and we’re just a hair off," Williams said. "We’ve had a lot of looks, a lot of zone time, a lot of possession time, but it hasn’t resulted in any goals and that can be frustrating, but we’re going to simplify and play the way we know how, and we need to be successful for us to move forward. We have to put the onus on ourselves." For the Flyers, captain Claude Giroux has only one assist in the series. He’s been known for his prowess in past postseasons (62 points in 62 career playoff games), but his offensive production has been limited.
Special difference: Special teams continue to be a factor in this series. The Flyers’ power play has been virtually nonexistent, going 1-for-21. That means Washington’s penalty-killing unit has been solid -- it went 6-for-6 in Game 5 -- and its power play is 8-for-22. Philadelphia has to be better on the power play.
Injury updates: The Capitals’ Brooks Orpik, who has been sidelined since Game 3 with an upper-body injury, traveled with the team to Philly, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz does not know if the veteran defenseman will be available for the remainder of the series. Orpik has been working out off the ice, but he has not skated since the injury. The Flyers’ Sean Couturier, who has been sidelined since suffering an upper-body injury in Game 1, skated on Saturday. He was expected to miss two weeks, and Hextall said that timeline has not changed and he doesn’t expect Couturier to play in this series. The Flyers’ Scott Laughton, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher in Game 4, was released from the hospital on Thursday and is scheduled to practice on Monday, according to Hextall.
History: Four NHL teams have erased a three-game deficit to win a postseason series: the Toronto Maple Leafs (1942), New York Islanders (1975), Flyers (2010) and Los Angeles Kings (2014). Giroux was a member of the 2010 Flyers team that beat the Boston Bruins. "It’s really hard to compare to 2010," he said. "The way we work and all year, we’ve been battling to make the playoffs and we’re playing playoff hockey for about three months there, to be in the position we are, we’re starting to enjoy it."