(The Sports Xchange) - A goal by Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom proved the difference as the Washington Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 in Game Six on Sunday to clinch the series.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby stopped all 26 shots the Flyers threw his way, including 11 in the third period, and the Capitals escaped Wells Fargo Center with a 4-2 series win after finally getting a puck past Philadelphia goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Washington moves on to the second round, where the Pittsburgh Penguins await.
The Capitals finally solved Neuvirth 8:59 into the second period.
Alex Ovechkin made a strong play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. The Capitals captain moved the puck to the slot to Marcus Johansson as Backstrom camped out and readied a one-timer on the right wing. Johansson wasted no time and fed Backstrom for a 1-0 Washington lead, which proved to be the game-winning goal.
After losing Game Five, the pressure was back on the Capitals, the league’s best team in the regular season. They have a recent history of playoff failure, having not reached the conference final despite being a top-three seed three times since 2007-08.
“We’ve come a long way from last year,” second-year coach Barry Trotz said.
“When I first stepped behind the bench, I felt there was a little bit of nervousness in tight games. I think we’ve come full-circle where we’re comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Holtby was at his best in the third period. The 26-year-old goalie — and likely Vezina Trophy winner — stopped chances from Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds midway through the period and stood tall when the Flyers pulled Neuvirth for an extra attacker with 1:38 to go.
“We knew they were going to have a good push,” Trotz said. “When you get goaltending like that, you’ve got a chance to win every night.”
Backstrom’s goal broke a shutout streak of 106:21 for Neuvirth, who had stopped 93 of 94 shots prior to that after being inserted into the lineup for Steve Mason after Game Three.
“Nick made a pretty perfect shot and we knew it was going to have to take a perfect shot to beat (Neuvirth),” Holtby said. “That was the goal we needed.”
Added Ovechkin: “We just were calm and knew that if we put pressure (on) and play simple and play our way, we’re going to get one or two.
“We made a play and (Backstrom) scored a huge one. It kind of took the pressure off our shoulders.”
The Flyers scored just six goals in the six-game series, the fewest the Capitals have ever allowed in a best-of-seven series.
Editing by Andrew Both