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Capitals score 5 straight goals to beat the Flyers 5-2, a big win for Washington's playoff hopes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Turns out that, no, the Washington Capitals aren't ready to give up on their chances of making the playoffs.

Less than 36 hours after coach Spencer Carbery's profanity-laced challenge to players at practice, the Capitals answered in a big way in their most important game of the season, rallying to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Friday night to give their playoff chances a significant boost.

Alex Ovechkin sparked the comeback with his 839th career goal and set up John Carlson's go-ahead goal, turning a 2-0 deficit into a massive victory. Washington moved four points back of the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division and also sit five back of Tampa Bay for the second and final wild card in the Eastern Conference.

“This is where we’re at,” Carlson said. "We’ve all played before, we can all look at the standings and it’s plastered everywhere, you guys ask, it’s on TV — whatever. It’s not hard to figure out we needed a big effort against a team ahead of us.”

With goals by Ovechkin, Sonny Milano and Carlson over a span of 14 minutes in the second period, the Capitals made a loud statement that they’re still in the hunt a week away from the NHL trade deadline. That dominant stretch, after a miserable start, changed the complexion of the game and could have a similar impact on the playoff chase.

“We started playing more physical,” Ovechkin said. "We didn’t turn over the puck in the neutral zone, don’t give them freedom.

And it wasn't just a 20-minute effort. Anthony Mantha and Dylan Strome scored in the third to give Washington some breathing room.

At the other end of the ice, Charlie Lindgren continued his stellar season by stopping 21 of the 23 shots he faced in one of the most meaningful starts of his professional career. The coaching staff believed enough in Lindgren that it was a no-brainer to go with him over Darcy Kuemper, even after Lindgren allowed eight goals Tuesday in a blowout loss at Detroit.

“I was so excited to play this game just because what happened last game with the snowman,” Lindgren said. “It meant a lot, honestly, and you know it just shows that they got a lot of trust in me and I wanted to go out and make the most of it.”

It wasn't so pretty for Samuel Ersson, pressed into action as the Flyers' No. 1 goaltender by default with Carter Hart away from the team pending a sexual assault charge stemming from a 2018 incident in London, Ontario. Ersson, who the organization is counting on to carry it into the playoffs, allowed five goals on 21 shots.

“I’m just looking for us to get our footing,” coach John Tortorella said. “It’s not like we lost total control. We just didn’t develop enough offense. Give them credit. They checked better when the got some momentum.”

Mistakes all around Ersson didn't help, as defensive breakdowns contributed on all of Washington's goals. They were too much to compensate for the first-period goals by Bobby Brink and Owen Tippett that made it look like Philadelphia would roll.

Instead, the Flyers now sit in an even more tenuous spot, with the Capitals also having two extra games to play to make up ground.

“We’re still fighting,” Ovechkin said. "We’re still trying to make the playoffs, so we understand it’s a big game for us and I think we responded well.”

UP NEXT

Flyers: Felix Sandstrom is expected to make his first NHL start this season back in Philly on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Capitals: Host the lowly Arizona Coyotes on Sunday afternoon in another crucial game to stay in the playoff race.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press