CAPS CLINCH BEST OVERALL BEFORE ANYONE ELSE IN EAST CLINCH PLAYOFFS
Led by a three-goal third period, The Washington Capitals beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 and officially clinching the 2015-16 President’s trophy and assured home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With a couple of rebound goals, a late power play strike, and solid goal-tending, the Caps (54-16-5, 113) wrapped up the final regular-season prize of the Presidents trophy for most points in the regular season — and still have seven games to play.
The fourth line came to play and Tom Wilson benefited the most from it. Picking up a rebound off a Mike Richards shot, Wilson made a nifty little backhand move from his knees to put the puck in the goal and the Caps on top for the rest of the night. An expert exploitation of a broken Blue Jackets’ stick.
Wilson was asked if he would have any celebrating tonight in light of the game winning goal, “I’ll have lots of beer if we win the Cup.”
Justin Williams was first to find the back of the net. After nearly 134 minutes without a five-on-five goal from the Caps, John Carlson took a quick shot from just inside the blue line. The rebound bounced to Williams, who was playing just above the crease to set up a swift top shelf shot to put the Caps up by one.
A less-surprising moment came 1:31 later, when Dimitri Orlov gave up a soft turnover in the defensive zone, allowing Cam Atkinson to take an uncontested shot from only eight feet in front of Braden Holtby and tie up the game at one. Orlov’s mistake was costly as he played only 2:40 for the second period.
When Trotz was asked about Orlov he mentioned, “…there may be changes going forward.” While not elaborating, it was clear he was disappointed in the play. Also stating, “I believe this could have been a team shut out, but we throw one pizza up in the middle and it ended in the back of the net.”
TJ Oshie was able to put a nail into the Blue Jackets coffin late in the third. During the fifth power play opportunity, Matt Niskanen corralled a pass from Nicklas Backstrom at the blue line. With help from a little traffic in front of the goalie, Oshie was able to redirect the shot in.
When asked about the team’s depth Oshie said, “It says a lot about our depth, about the the guys that have needed extra time.”
Backstrom made sure to give those who came out to Verizon for Swedish Heritage night something to cheer for when he placed a well-hit shot from the center ice into Columbus’ empty net, giving the Caps their fourth and final goal — and Backstrom’s 20th of the season.
Holtby finished with 20 saves and another win, leaving him just two shy of Martin Brodeurs record of 48 in a season.
The Caps have now done everything a team can do in the regular season and guarantee themselves home ice throughout the playoffs. Let the countdown begin!
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at the Philadelphia Flyers at 8 p.m.