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Alex Ovechkin has at least one more game to play up to his ``Alexander the Great'' nickname.
The Philadelphia Flyers don't want to give the Capitals star forward any more chances to rediscover his scoring touch. That's why the Flyers are treating Monday night's Game 6 like a decisive seventh game: Win at home, advance to the next round, and not have to worry about Ovechkin having a breakout game Tuesday night in Washington.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Philadelphia -136 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Philadelphia -136 (View NHL Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
``We've got two shots at it, but it's pretty close to a must win,'' Flyers forward Joffrey Lupul said on Sunday. ``I don't think we were prepared for how hard (the Capitals) were going to come out with their backs against the wall as we should have been.''
The Flyers, who hold a 3-2 series lead, know they wasted a great shot at eliminating the Capitals in Game 5 on Saturday. They started slow, never really picked up the pace until the third period and lost 3-2.
``I think (Saturday) we were a little more confident than we should have been,'' said Flyers center Danny Briere.
The Capitals won again without a goal or assist from Ovechkin, the NHL's regular-season leading scorer. He only has one goal and four assists in the series, but played perhaps his best all-around game on Saturday. Ovechkin's shifts were shorter, he created better looks (six shots) at the net, and drew a timely hooking penalty that allowed the Caps to score on a 5-on-3 advantage. Toss in a nice hip-check on Jim Dowd and Ovechkin contributed in more ways without the puck than he had in any of the other first four games.
``In the past, when you stop Alex, you stop the team. I don't think that's so now,'' said center Brooks Laich.
True, but the kind of game from Ovechkin where he stuffs the scoresheet could be what the Capitals need to send the series back to Washington for a potential Game 7.
``People expect him to have two goals every game. It doesn't happen,'' said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. ``He can contribute in many ways.''
That is exactly what concerns the Flyers. Coach John Stevens was unhappy with the Flyers' effort for most of the first two periods and wants them to compete harder for the puck from the first faceoff of Game 6.
While the Capitals controlled the puck and outplayed the Flyers for long stretches in the first two periods, the Flyers hustled in the third period and nearly tied the game in the waning minutes. Stevens, though, didn't necessarily feel like the Flyers were in trouble heading back to Philadelphia to try and wrap up there series in front of a wild home crowd. The key is to win the series, not every game.
``I felt like I was playing pingpong where you had to win by two,'' Stevens said. ``If you didn't win by two, you couldn't win the series. It's not as if Washington is a bad team and we should have rolled them over in four straight.''
The Flyers will attempt to clinch their first postseason series victory since 2004 without veteran right winger Mike Knuble. Knuble, who scored the double overtime winner in Game 4, sustained a partial tear of his left hamstring and will miss the rest of the series. Knuble tumbled to the ice in a moment of indecision over whether to try to block a shot late in the second period and did not return.
``I take pride in being a player that's in the lineup a lot,'' Knuble said. ``To have something like this take you out, and you pretty much did it to yourself, is the frustrating part.''
The Flyers are used to playing without their top players in the lineup. Simon Gagne, Derian Hatcher and Mike Richards are among the key Flyers who missed long stretches of the season and they always got by fine.
Knuble had 29 goals and 26 assists during the regular season, and two goals and three assists against the Capitals.
Knuble and Scottie Upshall were the forwards on a line with center Jeff Carter, a line that produced three of the four goals in a Game 4 win.
R.J. Umberger, who had 13 goals and 50 points this season, is a likely option to fill Knuble's spot, especially on the power play.
``This is my chance to play my best hockey,'' Umberger said.
The Flyers know it's the same attitude for Ovechkin, too.
``Now we're getting closer to facing elimination,'' Briere said. ``You should expect to see two teams that are going to push extremely hard.''