Capitals secure playoff spot with Oshie's game-winner against Flyers

T.J. Oshie scored into an empty net in the rare situation of a team pulling its goaltender in a tie game, and the Washington Capitals are in the playoffs after beating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Flyers coach John Tortorella pulled goalie Samuel Ersson for an extra attacker because his team needed to win in regulation to keep its hopes alive. The result allowed the Capitals to clinch a berth and eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins — rivals for both teams finishing the regular season in Philadelphia — in improbable fashion with Oshie’s goal with exactly 3 minutes left.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 16: T.J. Oshie #77 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his game-winning empty net goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on April 16, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Capitals defeat

The surreal scene played out after the Flyers and Capitals slogged out much of the third period 5 on 5 — and perhaps a minute after Detroit went to overtime in Montreal, eliminating Philadelphia. Tortorella may not have known his team had no chance of winning when he sent Ersson to the bench and opened the net for Oshie.

Washington will face the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers in the first round beginning this weekend, returning to the playoffs after a one-year absence ended their eight-year streak.

A recent six-game losing streak looked to have tanked the Caps’ chances, but beyond more strong play from goalie Charlie Lindgren, they kept themselves in the race. Lindgren looked shaky at times against the Flyers, giving up some big rebounds, but he made the saves, 27 total, when they mattered in his second start in as many days and 48th of the season — by far the most he has played in his NHL career.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 16: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals plays against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at the Wells Fargo Center on April 16, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty

Alex Ovechkin provided the earlier offense, scoring his 31st goal of the season and 853rd of his career on a deflection of Dylan McIlrath’s shot late in the first to move 42 back of breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record. The only goal Lindgren allowed was a similar redirection by veteran defenseman Erik Johnson, a trade deadline acquisition by Philadelphia not known for his scoring prowess.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.