If the Flyers meet Washington in the Eastern Conference playoffs, they have reason for optimism.
They made an emphatic statement by winning three of the four regular-season games against the Capitals, including an impressive 6-3 victory Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Wayne Simmonds scored two goals and Oskar Lindblom tallied for the first time in his NHL career as the Flyers won their second straight and snapped the Capitals’ four-game winning streak.
“It’s huge, but we’ve just got to keep on going,” Simmonds said.
With the victory, the third-place Flyers, who were playing on back-to-back nights, moved to within four points of first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers have nine games left, one fewer than the Caps.
The Flyers had lost seven of their last eight before regrouping and regaining their confidence by winning on back-to-back nights against host Carolina and Washington.
“It was critical just to get points,” said coach Dave Hakstol, whose team is eight points ahead of Florida (which has four games in hand), the team trying to climb into a wild-card spot. “These are basically all playoff games right now.”
Hakstol said the win in Carolina “maybe took some of the weight off the guys’ shoulders, and coming in today, the focus was really good and clear.”
Added Hakstol: “We’re in the middle of a battle here and every point we can gain is critical. To do that last night and come back with a real gutsy effort on a back-to-back against a real good hockey team, those are good points for us.”
In their four meetings this season, the Flyers outscored the Capitals, 19-11. That should give the Flyers some confidence if they meet Washington in the playoffs.
“We played them well all year, and I think it’s important when you go through the season series that you learn about a team and you take that into the postseason if you play against them,” winger Travis Konecny said.
Lindblom’s goal gave the Flyers the lead for good.
“Of course it feels good,” Lindblom said after converting a pass from Jake Voracek (assist, empty-net goal). “It was good timing in the game, too, to get the 2-1 lead. When I saw Jake with the puck and I had an open spot, I knew the puck was coming to me and I was going to shoot it. Good feeling.”
Lindblom and Ivan Provorov scored late in the second period to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead.
From the high slot, Lindblom beat Philipp Grubauer high to the left corner of the net for his first NHL goal in 14 games, putting the Flyers ahead, 2-1, with 1 minute, 41 seconds left in the period.
“It was huge,” said Shayne Gostisbehere, who gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the second period with his 12th goal and second in three games. “The kid is getting confidence and you can really tell. He’s really going and Jake has been really building him up there.”
Provorov (plus-3) scored with 18.3 seconds left in the second to make it 3-1, firing a shot that deflected into the net off the shin of Caps defenseman Christian Djoos.
Simmonds deflected Robert Hagg’s drive into the net for his 22nd goal, giving the Flyers a 4-1 lead with 18:23 left in regulation. The Caps cut it to 4-2 on Chandler Stephenson’s goal with 9:29 to go.
But Simmonds secured the verdict, scoring from the high slot after a Capitals turnover with 5:33 remaining, increasing the lead to 5-2.
Simmonds had the 31st multiple-goal game of his career — and his first since he scored a hat trick in the season opener in San Jose.
“I thought we started the game off well and we just kept going,” Simmonds said. “You don’t always get the goals, so you have to fight and battle for 60 minutes.”
Flyers goalie Petr Mrazek had been shaky lately, but he played solidly and made numerous big saves when the game was close.
“He was excellent,” Hakstol said. “When you look at back-to-backs like this, there’s going to be some [defensive] breakdowns, and your goaltender has to be front and center, and I thought Petr was tonight.”