The Washington Capitals are locked in a battle for the top spot in the East Division and will finish the regular season with a three-game homestand, the first of which comes Friday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Washington (34-14-5, 73 points) is tied with Pittsburgh (35-16-3, 73 points)for the division's top spot. The Capitals do have a game in hand on the Penguins while Boston (31-14-7, 69 points) and the New York Islanders (31-16-6, 68 points) sit right behind. All four teams have already clinched playoff spots.
The Flyers (23-23-7, 53 points) have been eliminated from the playoff race.
The Capitals are coming into Friday's game after a wild, fight-filled 4-2 victory at the New York Rangers Monday. T.J. Oshie, playing one day after announcing the death of his father, registered a hat trick to lead the injury-depleted Washington team to an emotional victory.
New York was furious that Washington winger Tom Wilson was not suspended after a scrum in Monday's game and went as far as to put out a statement saying so. The NHL Department of Player Safety reviewed what happened between Wilson and New York's Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin and opted to fine him $5,000 and without a suspension.
The Rangers players made their own statement one second into the game when their line dropped the gloves to take on Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway, Washington's physical fourth line that always plays together. Wilson then did battle with Brendan Smith at the 50-second mark before there were two more fights at 4:14, leaving six players from each team in penalty box at the same time.
Overall, 141 penalty minutes were handed out.
"I think the way that we started the game obviously pulled the guys together," said Dowd. "Everybody that was asked answered the bell. I think that just brings our team closer together as a whole."
Washington also wanted to show Oshie, one of the team's leaders, how much he means to the club.
"Pretty spectacular," said Caps coach Peter Laviolette. "To go through what he went through and to want to be back here and get with his teammates and play...and the game that he played was outstanding. It says a lot about him and what he means to this team."
The Capitals' injury situation remained in flux as of Wednesday morning. Alex Ovechkin sat out for the fifth time in six games due to a lower-body injury. Evgeny Kuznetsov is on the COVID protocol list for the second time and goalie Ilya Samsonov, suspended on Monday, did not dress again -- Vitek Vanecek stepped in and made 19 saves. Tom Wilson did not play the final two periods due to an upper-body injury, but Laviolette said he'd be fine.
Justin Schultz (lower body) and Daniel Sprong (illness) also sat out.
The Flyers come to Washington after Pittsburgh handed them a 7-3 loss on Tuesday. That win allowed the Penguins to take a brief two-point lead in the division before the Caps tied things Wednesday.
Sean Couturier, Justin Braun and Travis Konecny each scored a goal for Philadelphia. Goalie Brian Elliott made 24 saves in his 500th career game but the Penguins had too much.
The Flyers will have to play without defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere for a second straight game. He was suspended for two games without pay by the NHL Wednesday after boarding Pittsburgh's Mark Friedman.
Philadelphia could not slow Sidney Crosby as it did in its victory over the Penguins earlier this week. This time, Crosby scored twice.
"It was safe to figure that Sid -- after having a tough game and him being the great player that he was, he would have a bounce-back game," Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault said. "He certainly did."
--Field Level Media