Washington Capitals right wing Mike Knuble (22) battles for the puck against Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, left, and Johnny Boychuk, right, during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, April 11, 2010, in Washington. The Bruins won 4-3 in shootout. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Nick Wass)
WASHINGTON - In a last-day-of-the-season game that had no effect on the standings, Alex Ovechkin and his teammates tried their best to win the two-time reigning MVP some more individual hardware.
The result was a big zero, as in neither a goal nor an assist for Ovechkin in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. The game ended his chase for the overall scoring title - Vancouver's Henrik Sedin gets the honour - although Ovechkin still had a chance to share the goal-scoring crown pending the outcome of Sunday's other games.
"Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose, so congrats to Sedin," Ovechkin said. "He deserved it. He played great. We all tried, but some get it, some don't."
Ovechkin ends the season with 50 goals, quite a feat considering he missed 10 games due to injuries and suspensions. He began the day tied with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and one goal ahead of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, both of whom played later. Ovechkin was trying to become the first player to win the Maurice Richard Trophy three years in a row since Brett Hull (1990-92).
Ovechkin also piled up 109 points to finish three behind Sedin for the Art Ross Trophy.
Of course, Ovechkin could have other trophies in store. He's certainly a front-runner to win the Hart Trophy for MVP again, and the Capitals are top contenders to capture their first Stanley Cup.
"It doesn't take away from the year he had," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He didn't get any points today. Sometimes you just can't dig it up to do it. Boston looked to me like their whole concern was not to let Alex score. So we'll get back to normal. I'm glad the whole race thing is over."
The Capitals then retreated to a team dinner, kept an eye on the scoreboard and learned that Montreal would be their playoff opponent in the first round. The Bruins had a similar bit of suspense, waiting to see whether Buffalo or New Jersey would be first up on their playoff docket.
David Krejci and Miroslav Satan scored in the shootout for the Bruins, who ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak. Ovechkin and the Capitals' other top scorers didn't take part in the shootout as Boudreau gave Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley rare - but unsuccessful - chances against Boston backup goalie Tim Thomas.
Two Washington players did achieve major personal benchmarks. Alexander Semin reached the 40-goal mark for the first time and also notched his 300th career point.
Also, defenceman Jeff Schultz became the first Capitals player to lead the league in plus-minus rating. He was plus-2 for the game, putting him at plus-50 for season.
Eric Belanger and Mike Knuble also scored for the Capitals, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.
Michael Ryder scored twice in the first period, and Marco Sturm tied the game with 4:18 remaining in regulation for the Bruins.
"It's nice getting a little momentum going into the playoffs," Boston left wing Shawn Thornton said, "and it was nice seeing everybody come to work when we had our best players out."
With both teams' seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs already secured - Washington at No. 1, Boston at No. 6 - the game provided an extra day of rest for many regulars. Among the scratches for Boston were Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference, Mark Recchi, Zdeno Chara, Mark Stuart and Vladimir Sobotka. Thomas made 34 saves in place of Tuukka Rask. Center Zach Hamill got an assist in his first NHL game.
Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, Quintin Laing, Tyler Sloan and John Erskine had the day off for Washington. Boudreau has yet to announce his No. 1 goaltender for the playoffs, so Semyon Varlamov got the start and made 35 saves in his bid to win the job over Jose Theodore.
The Capitals sold out every home game this season for the first time in franchise history and finished with a club record 121 points in the standings, the first team outside of the NHL's Original Six to reach the 120 mark.
"We're glad it's over," Boudreau said. "We knew for a long time we were going to be in the playoffs, so as much as you want to push them, they're looking forward to a different kind of challenge."
NOTES: Thomas unloaded a series of haymakers on Capitals LW Jason Chimera after Chimera was bumped into the Bruins goaltender in the first period. "Looking at the replay, I overreacted," Thomas said. "It wasn't as bad as I felt like it was at the time. But I hadn't played in a while and I needed to do something to get myself in the game." Chimera's response: "Overreacted? The guy punches me with the blocker five times in the face and doesn't take his mask off. It's called stupidity, not overreacting." Thomas was given four minutes for roughing, while Chimera got two minutes for goaltender interference. Chimera later received a 10-minute misconduct after jawing at other players while making a move toward Thomas. Chimera then committed a cross-checking penalty in the second period, but later drew a penalty on Boston's Dennis Wideman. ... The Bruins avoided a sweep in the season series, having lost the first three.