Flyers knock off Capitals in shootout

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Sam Gagner celebrates his winning goal against the Capitals with teammate Brayden Schenn.

The Flyers' road to the playoffs got a little smoother Wednesday night at the electric Wells Fargo Center.

They shocked powerful Washington in a shootout, 2-1, and moved two points ahead of idle Detroit in the battle for the Eastern Conference's last wild-card spot.

"It's a nice feeling, however there's still lots of work to be done, so we don't want to get too ahead of ourselves," goalie Steve Mason said after making 29 saves and denying the Capitals on two shots in the shootout, including one by shootout artist T.J. Oshie. "After jockeying back and forth with [the Red Wings] the last little while, and to finally see a little progress is nice. We just have to make sure we continue to move forward."

The Flyers have six games left, including a showdown Wednesday in Detroit.

Nick Cousins and Sam Gagner scored on the Flyers' only shots in the shootout. Both put shots through the legs of goalie Brayden Holtby, with Cousins doing it with a deft move.

"It's huge," said winger Jake Voracek, whose team got a late goal from Claude Giroux to register a 3-2 overtime win over Winnipeg on Monday. "I mean, we could have come up with one point the last two games, and we came up with four. We're getting closer [to the playoffs], but we have to keep going."

The Flyers are 3-8 in shootouts, while the Capitals are 4-2.

With Washington on a power play because of a Wayne Simmonds tripping penalty, Nicklas Backstrom fired a shot off the left post with 3 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in overtime. The Flyers survived the penalty.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Backstrom said. "They are fighting for a playoff spot and we're trying to get our game ready. It felt close to a playoff game. There were a lot of emotions involved."

With 1:06 to go in overtime, Holtby stopped an all-alone Shayne Gostsibehere after some great passing by Giroux and Voracek.

In a physical, intensely played game, the Flyers' first power-play unit picked an opportune time to score its first goal in more than a month.

Brayden Schenn redirected Giroux's drive past Holtby (33 saves) with 5:28 left to tie the score at 1-1. It was Schenn's 25th goal, and the first for the team's top power-play unit since Feb. 29.

"It had to be a greasy goal," Giroux said. "If he sees it, he's going to stop it, so you have to get in front of him."

Schenn, who had eight hits, has 11 goals in his last 24 games. Giroux's assist gave him 515 points, putting him ahead of Reggie Leach for 12th place on the team's all-time list.

The Flyers had not allowed a power play in about 129 minutes, but Washington connected when Brandon Manning went to the box for hooking.

The penalty occurred late in the second period and carried into the third, and Alex Ovechkin scored on a left-circle tracer with 18:32 left in regulation. Just eight seconds remained on Manning's penalty.

It was Ovechkin's 44th goal - and 31st in 41 career games against the Flyers.

Both teams had great scoring chances in the second period. A minute into the period, Schenn was in alone but was stopped by Holtby. Two minutes later, Holtby denied Matt Read from point-blank range.

With 15:30 to go in the second, Ovechkin had Mason beaten, but his right-circle shot bounced off the left post.

The Flyers had eight of the second-period's first nine shots, including one by Cousins that Holtby turned aside from the paint.

Midway through the second, Voracek fed an all-alone Michael Raffl in front, but Holtby again made a big stop.

Washington clinched the league's highest point total on Monday, but the Capitals said that they wanted to remain sharp heading into the playoffs and that Wednesday's game was important because the Flyers could be their first-round opponent.

Both teams looked exhausted by the game's end.

"They're one of the best teams we've played in a while," Giroux said after the Flyers improved to 12-3-2 in their last 17 games, "so it was fun to compete with them."

scarchidi@phillynews.com

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