The Washington Capitals can enjoy the rest of their Sunday knowing that they won’t have to be worried about being overtaken in the race for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
A 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on NBC ensured they’ll have at least a one-point lead on the division. For the time being, it’s a three-point advantage, with the New York Islanders facing the Arizona Coyotes later on Sunday.
Washington had lost two straight coming into this one, including a 5-4 overtime defeat against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday Night Hockey. That game was one of the best of the season between two powerhouses and the Capitals showed they could still run with the dominant Lightning.
Washington then dropped a 2-1 decision to the Minnesota Wild on Friday.
So stopping the bleeding in Sunday’s matinee was paramount.
Tom Wilson‘s deflection put the Capitals ahead 1-0 in the first period, a lead that was padded in the second by Travis Boyd on another re-directed shot.
The Flyers, with their playoff hopes all but mathematically gone, battled back to 2-1 through Jakub Voracek on the power play to keep things interesting into the third. The Flyers put up 20 shots in the second period but Braden Holtby was up to the task, finishing with 35 saves in the game
A breakaway goal nearing the mid-way point of the third period by Jakub Vrana sealed it for Washington.
The pursuit of another 50-goal season for Alex Ovechkin will have to wait, meanwhile.
Ovi has hit a bit of a dry spell as of late, now having gone four games without a marker. With six games remaining, it’s unlikely The Great 8 will be held at bay for the rest of the regular season.
He nearly had an empty netter, but it was defended well by the Flyers and Ovechkin ultimately chose to pass the puck and the play never materialized into anything.
Washington now gears up for a home and home with the Carolina Hurricanes before another test against the Tampa Bay Lightning next Saturday.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck