By Dan Pieringer
Washington (50-23-8) at Florida (40-30-11) 7:00 pm. EDT
SUNRISE, Florida (AP) -- The Washington Capitals finally know
exactly where they'll finish in the Eastern Conference playoff
race. Unfortunately for the Florida Panthers, they have a pretty
good idea where they'll end up as well.
After securing the No. 2 seed in the East, the Capitals look to
do some fine-tuning for the playoffs in their regular-season
finale Saturday night when they visit the Panthers, again
eliminated from postseason contention.
Washington (50-23-8) clinched second place in the East by
winning 4-2 at Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Brooks Laich had two
goals as the Capitals set a franchise record by reaching 108
points and tied a team mark with 50 wins, matching the 1985-86
The Capitals, however, won't be satisfied until their
record-breaking regular season pays off in the playoffs.
"We're definitely proud of our accomplishments, but we haven't
done nothing yet," said defenseman Mike Green, who added a goal
and two assists against the Lightning.
Though he agrees that this is one of the best seasons in
franchise history, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau says he won't
know for sure until after the postseason.
"I think you've got to rank this team up there with a lot of
them," said Boudreau, whose club has recorded at least one point
in seven straight (5-0-2).
"I think it's quite an accomplishment in today's day and age
with the salary cap and all the teams have the ability to be
equal. But I think the best team in Capitals history has got to
win the Stanley Cup because they've been there and lost it."
The Panthers (40-30-11) won't be playing for the Cup this spring
after getting knocked out of the playoff race Thursday. They
picked up a 3-2 win at Atlanta, but the New York Rangers and
Montreal earned points to clinch the last two playoff berths in
"You look back for one point throughout the year - that's hard
to take," said winger David Booth, who scored the winning goal
against the Thrashers with 4:25 left in the third period.
Florida has gone 5-2-0 over its last seven to reach its highest
point total since its last playoff appearance in 1999-2000, but
that's little consolation as the Panthers will sit out their
eighth straight postseason.
"You don't lose (a chance at the playoffs) in the last few
games. It's the whole course of the season. It's about
consistency," goaltender Tomas Vokoun said.
The Panthers have gone 2-3-0 against the Southeast Division
rival Capitals this season, including 0-2-0 at home.
Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who's second in the NHL with 108
points, has recorded at least one in all five games against
Florida this season, totaling four goals and three assists.
Ovechkin, first in the league with 55 goals, has been held
without one in each of his last three games after totaling five
in his previous four.
Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe has two goals and three assists
in Florida's two wins over Washington but has been held without
a point in the three losses.