Caps inching closer to playoffs

Caps inching closer to playoffs
March 31, 2013, 12:30 am
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Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals savor Saturday night’s 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres just long enough to prepare for the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday night:

How it happened: Mike Green completed a two-goal third period comeback with 40 seconds remaining in regulation when he rang a shot off the post, off the arm of Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth and into the net. Matt Hendricks and Alex Ovechkin scored on the Caps’ first two shootout attempts and Braden Holtby stopped both shots he faced to win it.

What it means: The Caps got a little help on the out-of-town scoreboard, where the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets lost. That means the 11th-place Caps [16-17-1] are now one point behind the Hurricanes, and two behind the Rangers and Islanders in their bid for the final playoff spot. They also climbed within five points of the Southeadt Division-leading Jets with two games in hand.

Gaining ground: If the Caps can beat the Flyers tonight in Philadelphia, they would reach .500 for the first time since starting the season 0-0-0. They would also leapfrog the idle Hurricanes, Islanders and Rangers and into the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with 35 points and more regulation wins than the Rangers and Isles.

Goalie dilemma: If you’re Adam Oates, do you go with Braden Holtby or Michal Neuvirth against the Flyers? Holtby has started seven straight games and has gone 4-1-0 in his last five starts, but he also faced 38 shots Saturday night and was forced to play 65 minutes and a shootout. Neuvirth has not played since March 16 and is 1-1-1 against the Flyers in his career. Logic suggests that with such a heavy workload Saturday night, Holtby will get a rest on Sunday and play in Carolina on Tuesday. If Neuvirth gets the start against the Flyers, you can bet the leash will be short.

Ovi on fire: Alex Ovechkin now has 8 goals and 13 points in his past 9 games and is 2-for-2 on shootout attempts. He fired a season-high 10 shots on goal against the Sabres and had another four blocked and three more miss the net. Mike Green and Troy Brouwer each recorded five shots, one goal and one assist.

On the rebound: The Flyers recovered from Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss to the Islanders, a game in which they blew  2-0 lead, with a convincing 3-1 home win over Boston on Saturday, breaking a four-game losing streak. Former Capital Mike Knuble scored a goal for the second straight game for the Flyers, who are hoping to avoid missing the playoffs for the second time in 19 years.