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Streaking Capitals look to keep rolling vs. Flyers

WASHINGTON -- No one can accuse the Washington Capitals of building their eight-game winning streak on the backs of the NHL's lesser lights.

Indeed the Capitals -- who host the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday -- have knocked off NHL division leaders including Columbus (snapping its 16-game winning streak), Montreal and Chicago, as well as contenders Pittsburgh and Ottawa (twice) along with struggling New Jersey.

"This team seems to play better against good teams for some reason," goaltender Braden Holtby said after blanking the Blackhawks Friday night. "The last few years we've done that.

"I don't know if it's we get excited when it's good hockey, forces us to play a little faster, not sure. But we've really worked hard since the start of the year to build our team and build our game through a little bit of adversity here and there."

A big part of the streak has been Holtby, the defending Vezina Trophy winner. In his last 14 games, he is 9-2-2 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and five shutouts.

The Capitals' offense is pulling its weight as well. During the streak, Washington has outscored opponents 35-14, including 31-6 at even strength.

On Friday, fourth liners Jay Beagle (two goals) and Tom Wilson (one) accounted for half the offense.

"All four lines were pulling on the rope. You saw production right through the whole lineup there," head coach Barry Trotz said. "We're in probably one of our tougher stretches in terms of games, so we need everybody to share the workload, not just (our) top guys ... and I think that makes us a better hockey team right now."

Beagle said getting his line more minutes helps in several ways.

"When you're rolling four it also saves the legs of the big minutes guys, coming into the third in a tight game they might feel a little bit more fresh and ? it builds our game too," he said. "It gives us a lot of confidence as a fourth line when Trotzy puts us out in critical situations."

Washington's ability to avoid a letdown will be tested Sunday against a Flyers team that isn't playing elite hockey right now.

The Flyers (22-17-6) continued their recent slide with a 6-3 loss to the Bruins in Boston on Saturday. Philadelphia lost for the 10th time in 13 games (3-7-3) after winning 10 in a row. The Flyers have dropped eight straight road games.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare gave the Flyers a 1-0 Flyers lead at 2:05 of the first period, but the Bruins took the lead for good early in the second.

"We just didn't play a good game today," winger Wayne Simmonds told NHL.com. "I thought we had a good start but it kind of fell apart afterwards. There's no excuses."

Backup goalie Michal Neuvirth started Saturday and made 33 saves. Steve Mason (14-14-6 with a 2.87 goals against average) has allowed three or more goals in four of his last five starts. Versus Washington, Mason is 9-5-2 with a 2.65 GAA.

Philadelphia has been outscored 39-22 over their past 10 games.

"We've got to look in the mirror," Simmonds told reporters. "We're giving up way too many goals. We've got to lock it down."

With 50 points, the Flyers are holding the final wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.

The Flyers won the teams' first meeting 3-2 in a shootout on Dec. 21.

Claude Giroux has 16 goals and 16 assists in 30 games versus Washington, while Jakub Voracek has 11 goals and eight assists in 26 games.

Alex Ovechkin will be happy to see the Flyers, against whom he has notched 31 goals and 17 assists in 42 games. Nicklas Backstrom has 14 goals and 30 assists in 35 games versus Philadelphia.

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