PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers' long, admirable climb into playoff contention suffered a severe setback Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Left with little margin for error because of a disastrous first half of the season, the Flyers were sloppy on defense as they dropped a 5-2 decision to the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
High-scoring Alex Ovechkin was held in check, but the Capitals got three goals from third-line forwards, including two from Brett Connolly (three points, plus-3).
Rookie goalie Carter Hart, who wasn't particularly sharp in his first start in three weeks, allowed four goals on 31 shots as the Flyers fell to 0-3 against the Capitals this season, yielding five goals in each of those defeats.
The Flyers, who have 12 games left, began the night five points out of a playoff spot.
They played without one of their top players, right winger Jake Voracek, who was serving the final game of his league-mandated, two-game suspension. Voracek will return to the lineup Friday in Toronto.
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The Flyers went 0 for 4 on the power play and are 0 for 12 in their last five games.
The Caps secured the win on Evgeny Kuznetzov's empty-net goal with 2:26 left.
Washington dominated the first period and built a 2-0 lead on goals by Connolly and Lars Eller.
An all-alone Connolly, stationed near the goal line to the left of the net, took a slick feed from Michal Kempny and knocked in an easy goal with 17:07 left in the first. A little less than seven minutes later, a Travis Sanheim turnover led to a goal by Eller, who scored on his own rebound.