CAPS CLINCH DIVISION, CONFERENCE WITH 10 GAMES TO GO
The Capitals clinched the Metro Division and Eastern Conference to guarantee home ice throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs with a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
For the first time in months, the Caps heeded their locker room motto: Stick to the Script.
The script included scoring first. Left completely unattended at Ottawa’s net at 2:32 into the first period, Mike Richards got the first goal with an easy conversion after Tom Wilson’s solid takeaway on the Senators’ failed clear.
The Caps (53-15-5) never looked back once they secured the lead. First line contributions, from Alex Ovechkin on the power play and later from Nicklas Backstrom, gave the Caps the first multi-goal lead in the first period in 17 games. Ovechkin’s goal came from 3 feet in front of the net where he barreled in to stick the puck past the netminder. Backstrom’s goal, a little over two minutes later, was served up by a slick pass from Jay Beagle that found Backstrom just above the crease after he beat his defender.
Part two of the script: defense. The Caps’ killed off more than a minute’s worth of a 5-on-3, with Richards and Karl Alzner doing yeoman’s work in the trenches. They proceedED to kill off three more penalties and disturb the Ottawa forwards as much as possible.
And, of course, part three: goaltending. Braden Holtby looked like his former self tonight, stopping 28 of 30 shots, including numerous close calls and a lot of noise coming in the third period.
The first Ottawa goal came in the second period when Chris Wideman snapped a shot from just outside the circle. Alzner attempted to glove it just before it sailed past Holtby.
The Caps briefly departed from script when Ottawa pulled their goalie with two minutes left, snuck a no-angle shot that rolled off Holtby and into goal, and threatened to disrupt the Caps’ perfect 19-0-0 record when leading after the first period. But T.J. Oshie had an emphatic reply by out-hustling Ottawa’s defender and turning a would be icing into an empty net goal with 23 seconds left.
Is Ottawa playoff bound? No. Is this a game the Caps were expected to win? Yes. But this was a game they needed. Something to inspire a nervous fan base and prepare themselves for the first round of the playoffs. More shots, fewer penalties, and this Caps team will be officially be back on script.
NEXT GAME: Friday at 7 p.m. at New Jersey.