While there was some debate over which game interim head coach Scott Gordon should have put Carter Hart in net, the fact is, it didn't matter who was between the pipes Thursday night.

None of the team's three goalies were slowing down the Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center, not with how the defending champions sliced and diced the Flyers in a 5-2 decision (see observations).

Hart saw his first game action since injuring his ankle Feb. 21. He actually made 27 saves and kept the Flyers within striking distance.

"He looked pretty sharp after getting settled in," Scott Laughton said. "Not too many rebounds coming off of him. I thought he did a good job for us, gave us a chance, but we made a couple of too many mistakes that ended up in the back of our net."

No, these were not ideal circumstances to ease your 20-year-old goalie back into action, but nothing is ideal right now for the Flyers. They are in no position to pick and choose spots for their goalies or to get too cute in decision-making.

Sure, you can look back at Monday night's 3-2 win and wonder if a matchup against the NHL-worst Senators would have been best for Hart to get a feel for things again before stiffer matchups ahead.

But a so-called tune-up wouldn't have made a difference against Washington, which has turned into the Flyers' biggest nightmare in 2018-19. The NHL schedule-makers did the Flyers no favors by giving them three matchups with the Capitals in March.


The Flyers also did themselves no favors by having a league-worst 38 points on the morning of Jan. 13, 45 games into their 82-game schedule.

And they've done themselves no favors by going a combined 0-5-2 against the Blue Jackets (0-2-2), who they're battling for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot, and the Capitals (0-3-0), who they play once more on March 24 in Washington, D.C.

In the three matchups with the Capitals, the Flyers have been outscored 13-4 through the first and second periods. Overall, Washington has outscored the Flyers 15-8. All three games were lopsided as the Capitals look like they're on another level.

After all, Washington is in first place of the Metropolitan Division, while the Flyers are clinging to feeble playoff hopes. They're five points back of Columbus for the East's final playoff berth with 12 games remaining.

They must play the second game of a back-to-back set against the Maple Leafs Friday night in Toronto, where the Flyers were ambushed, 6-0, back on Nov. 24.

"Guys know what position we're in right now," Claude Giroux said. "Can't afford to lose two games in a row. I strongly believe that we're not out of it. We're playing two teams right now that were basically contenders this year, so it's going to be a good test for us. We need to challenge ourselves."

Through three meetings, the Capitals have posed too big of a challenge.

Now John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner await the Flyers in Toronto.

Brian Elliott will get the net. At least he'll be rested.

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