By Steve Kelly

With game 6 in the Flyers-Cap series set for Sunday in Philly, the question is:

Can goalie Michal Neuvirth, who did not play in Games 1, 2 or 3, and the Flyers lost all three, beat the Caps all by himself?

For Game 4, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol replaced Steve Mason with Neuvirth, who was solid and finished with 31 saves (13 in the third period) as the Flyers posted a 2-1 victory. That success carried over into Game 5.

Flyers captain Claude Giroux said he’s never seen a goaltending performance like that.

“Not like that. Not live,” he said. “It was pretty impressive. The way he worked, it was pretty amazing. We did the best we could in front of them trying to eliminate the high-quality chances, and they were shooting pucks from everywhere. He did a good job of controlling the rebounds. It was pretty impressive.”

Neuvirth turned away all the quality chances the Capitals produced. He never appeared flustered. His confidence never wavered from the opening faceoff.

“That’s a great game by him from start to finish,” Hakstol said. “He did his job and made some huge saves for us when we were under pressure for some good time periods in that hockey game. The guys battled hard in front of him as well. When you look at some of the blocked shots, some of the hard defensive play that guys had in front of him, but it starts with him in between the pipes.”

After the win, Neuvirth rode a stationary bike and said he was not tired despite the workload.

“I felt good right from the start,” he said. “I had a really good pregame skate and I was coming pretty confident into the game.

“I like to face a lot of shots. It keeps me in the game. I enjoy it. Guys did a really good job in front of me. I was seeing the puck well. We didn’t take any bad penalties and we stuck to our system, and it was a big win for us.”

Despite the victory, the Flyers do have an issue. They can’t solely rely on Neuvirth to beat a high-powered Capitals team on his own. Philly produced only 11 shots on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby the entire game, the fewest in a playoff win since Washington beat the Ottawa Senators 2-0 on 11 shots on May 13, 1998.

At the other end of the ice, it didn’t matter which Capitals player took a shot, because Neuvirth made the timely saves. Even Alex Ovechkin, who registered a game-high eight shots, couldn’t find a hole.

“We’re used to that from him,” said Ryan White, who scored the Flyers’ first goal. “He’s had a couple of games this year where he’s just stood on his head. He’s been such a competitor for us. He competes every day like that in practice, so we’re not really surprised. It’s nice that the team did a good job in front of him and battled hard for him and tried to keep most of the scoring chances to a minimum. He obviously made a few big saves that kept us in the game.”

The Capitals were left shaking their heads in disbelief that they lost Game 5.

“Yeah, a little bit,” said T.J. Oshie. “Obviously, we want the win, first and foremost. But I think we played a hard game. They did a good job for the most part, keeping a lot of second chances away from us, but we got a lot of shots, got to their interior a little bit. So more of the same in Game 6.”

Back to the Caps fan in the elevator. It’s a safe bet that most Capitals fans leaving the rink Friday night felt the same way. It also meant coach Barry Trotz had some explaining to do for his team’s inability to close out this series, similar to in years past.

“I don’t know if it is fair or not. It doesn’t really matter. Everyone talks about the past. The only pressure we will have is on ourselves,” he said. “We have to go into Philadelphia and we have to play really well and get a win there. If we don’t accomplish that, then we will go to Game 7. I thought tonight we played excellent. What are you going to say? Keep playing that way and it will turn.”

Neuvirth has other plans.

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