Ovechkin's Caps eliminate Flyers in NHL playoffs, Penguins up next

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Washington (AFP)

Alex Ovechkin's Washington Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 to reach the second round of the NHL playoffs where they will square off against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Goaltender Braden Holtby stopped all 26 shots he faced for the shutout as the Capitals took the series four games to two, advancing one day after the Penguins booked their second round spot by beating the New York Rangers in five games.

When the Capitals and Penguins begin their Eastern Conference series it will mark the first time Canada's Crosby and Russia's Ovechkin will clash since their memorable seven-game, second-round series seven years ago.

The Penguins won game seven 6-2 before going on to beat the Detroit Red Wings for the Stanley Cup title.

Crosby has bragging rights over Ovechkin in their head-to-head meetings over the years as his resume includes two Olympic gold medals (2010 and 2014) and the Stanley Cup championship.

Ovechkin has yet to win an NHL crown or Olympic gold as the Capitals are seeking to shake off their reputation as playoff flops. They have not made it past the second round since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 1998.

Ovechkin said they will come up with a new game plan for the Penguins.

"We have to mentally forget about this series and focus on the next one. Pittsburgh is huge," Ovechkin said.

On Sunday, Holtby stopped attempts from Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds midway through the third, and remained impervious when the Flyers pulled goaltender Michal Neuvirth for an extra attacker with 1:38 remaining.

The Capitals had finally put a puck past Neuvirth 8:59 into the second period.

Ovechkin made a strong play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, moving it to Marcus Johansson who fed Nicklas Backstrom for the one-timer.

Backstrom's goal broke a shutout streak of more than 106 minutes for Neuvirth.

Prior to the Capitals' goal, the Flyers had a great chance to get on the board first, but they were unable to take advantage of two minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage.

The Flyers scored just six goals in the six-game series.

They managed to fend off elimination in two straight games after falling behind 3-0 in the series thanks largely to the efforts of Neuvirth, who replaced Steve Mason after game three.

The Dallas Stars also clinched their first-round playoff series with Minnesota, beating the Wild 5-4.

First period goals by John Klingberg, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp gave Dallas a commanding lead and helped withstand a furious Minnesota comeback, as the Stars won their best-of-seven series 4-2.