By Michael Bennett

The Flyers had a chance to advance their playoffs cause last night against the Capitals.

But instead they dug themselves deeper into the hole.

Brett Connolly had two goals and an assist for the Washington Capitals in a 5-2 win over the Flyers .

Lars Eller, Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for Washington (42-22-7), which won for the eighth time in nine games and leads the New York Islanders by two points for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

James van Riemsdyk and Scott Laughton scored for Phily (34-28-8). Carter Hart, playing for the first time since Feb. 21 because of an ankle injury, made 27 saves.

“At the end of the day, I just have to make a couple more saves,” Hart said. “We came out really hard in the second half of the game, I thought, and really put some pressure on them. … I have to make a couple more saves to give our team a better chance.”

The Flyers are five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with just 12 games to play.

“They play a great team game,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They have four lines that can make a lot of plays. I thought we played well. We had our chances. It’s definitely frustrating.”

Connolly scored from a sharp angle to make it 1-0 at 2:53 of the first period, and then set up Eller’s goal at 9:30 to make it 2-0.

Van Riemsdyk scored at 1:03 of the second period to make it 2-1.

Connolly scored his second of the night to make it 3-1 at 8:43. He is fifth on the Capitals with 19 goals and has scored at least 15 in each of his three seasons with Washington after never scoring more than 12 in his first five NHL seasons.

“Definitely this is the most fun I’ve had playing hockey,” Connolly said. “Obviously, last year winning (the Stanley Cup) … holding that trophy over your head, that’s something that sticks with you, gives you a little bit of confidence, little bit of swagger. It’s a great group here that let me be myself, let me find that role on whatever line I’m playing on and create offense. It’s been a great fit.”

Capitals coach Todd Reirden said the coaching staff has focused on giving Connolly positive feedback.

“That was something that I thought he was really going to thrive with, some more confidence from our staff than he’s received in the past,” Reirden said. “He’s really taken advantage of it. … He’s had an extremely consistent year. I’m happy for him for the work he’s put in. He’s had a really positive effect on our team.”

Wilson scored his 20th of the season at 9:48 to make it 4-1.

Laughton extended his point streak to six games with a goal at 12:22 to make it 4-2. He has six points (four goals, two assists) during the streak.

The Flyers failed to score on three power plays in the third period with a chance to get to within one goal. They went 0-for-4 with the man-advantage and are 0-for-12 in the past five games.

“We had some good shots,” Giroux said. “There were some rebounds around. We made plays that we wanted to make but didn’t work out. Power play has to be able to get us momentum or get us a goal.”

Kuznetsov scored an empty-net goal to make it 5-2 with 2:26 remaining.