"I think that everybody's obviously excited to be back in the playoffs," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "I think that excitement and energy will ball up more towards next week. I think this team's been through, obviously, some up and downs throughout the whole season and that we showed that we created some identity and built some resiliency."
That's not to say the Bruins were pleased with their effort against the Capitals on Saturday afternoon.
"I didn't feel like we were invested enough in most areas of the game to beat the first-place team in the National Hockey League," said interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, who led the Bruins to an 18-8-1 record after taking over on Feb. 8.
"Probably that simple to me. They're a good hockey club, they don't have a lot of weaknesses and you have to be on your A-game. We didn't have our A-game. I don't know if we were looking ahead or if it was just the opponent or one of those days, but we needed to be better if we expected to beat them."
Video: BOS Recap: Stafford scores in 2-1 shootout loss
The Bruins may not have to wait long to see the Capitals again. Boston finished the regular season 44-31-7 with 95 points and currently sits in third place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of Toronto.
If the Maple Leafs fail to pick up three points over their last two games, Boston will secure the third seed and take on Ottawa - which would have home-ice - in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If Toronto does pick up at least three points, the Bruins will head to Washington for the opening series.
"We're going to be confident, no matter who we play," said Cassidy. "They both present their challenges...it's out of our hands, so we get what we get."
After Washington opened the scoring on Marcus Johansson's 24th of the season at 4:21 of the first period, the Bruins tied it on Colin Miller's sixth goal of the season at 15:13 of the second.
Drew Stafford corralled a turnover deep in the Washington end and broke in all alone on Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer made the stop, but Stafford's rebound kicked out to Miller who fired it home.
The play was reviewed after Stafford - who picked up his 400th career point with the helper - was pushed into the net, causing it to come off its moorings, but the call on the ice stood.
"I just tried to step up and have a good gap, then it just really - the puck kind of found me when I was going to the net. I had a wide-open net and got the goal," said Miller.
Video: Bruins end regular season, get set for playoffs
Miller had been a healthy scratch for the previous two games and could be finding himself with more ice time if Torey Krug, day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and Brandon Carlo, who left Saturday's game with an upper-body, are not ready for the postseason.
"Colin always does some good things," said Cassidy. "He has the attributes to play - physical attributes - he's a good skater, he's willing to battle, can shoot, pass…Then going forward in the playoffs - I don't want to speculate on who will be dressed - but that will be the same as the regular season, what we'll expect, because it will be an even bigger stage.
"You just have to kind of enjoy the moment and not - be in the moment, but not get too caught up in the moment - and I think that will be the test for him."
The Capitals responded just 57 seconds after Miller's tally, when Kevin Shattenkirk ripped a one-timer from the top of the circles past Anton Khudobin. It appeared that Shattenkirk had scored again just over two minutes later, but the goal was overturned because of goalie interference. Washington continued to push and grabbed a 3-1 lead with only 49 seconds remaining in the second on Justin Williams' 24th of the season.
It was not the finish to the regular season the Bruins envisioned. All they can do now is wait - and watch - to see where they will open the postseason.
"We've done what we could through 82 games," said David Backes. "You can't change anything now. We've got a couple teams that are trying to catch us with a couple games left and we'll know who we're playing by tomorrow night and when we're playing and we can move forward.
"That's all we can do and see who our opponent is for the first round and get geared up and get back to playing our good games when we were all invested and putting the work and effort and sacrifice into winning hockey games. That's what we can do now."
Video: WSH@BOS: Miller finds loose puck, lights the lamp
Forsbacka Karlsson Makes Debut
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson suited up for his first National Hockey League game on Saturday. The 20-year-old forward recently decided to forego the final two years of his collegiate career at Boston University to sign a three-year entry-level contract with the Bruins.
Forsbacka Karlsson began the game centering Matt Beleskey and Drew Stafford on the Bruins' third line. He played 13 shifts over 8 minutes, 25 seconds of ice time and was 1 for 2 at the faceoff dot.
"It's not ideal coming in this time of year, in meaningful games," said Cassidy. "Only he can answer the comparables to college hockey versus the NHL and how he felt. Really the only thing we talked to him about is, 'Listen, you're playing against men, they're going to be hard on pucks.'
"He probably found that out today. He was positionally solid. He just needed to be harder around the battles. Every young player learns that and the quicker you can adapt to that, the easier the transition is going to be."
The Sweden native is the 10th Bruins to make his NHL debut this season. Forsbacka Karlsson joins Anton Blidh, Brandon Carlo, Peter Cehlarik, Austin Czarnik, Matt Grzelcyk, Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly, Zane McIntyre, and Rob O'Gara. It is the most Bruins to make their debuts since 2005-06.
"I felt better and better as the game went on," said Forsbacka Karlsson. "Obviously, it's a little bit of an adjustment, but like I said, you know, once you warm up a little bit it feels better.
"They're bigger, they're stronger, they make better decisions, go faster. You have less time with the puck…it's everything like that."
Carlo Leaves Early
Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo took a big hit from behind from Alex Ovechkin with just under seven minutes remaining in the first period and did not return with what was announced as an upper-body injury. There was no penalty called on the play.
"It looked like [Ovechkin] held up, but he still grabbed him and [Carlo] was in a vulnerable spot," said Cassidy. "He went head first into the glass and generally there's a call on that. Sometimes two [minutes], sometimes five. But to have no call at all, I thought was wrong, incorrect. But I don't think there was an intent to injure the way I saw it."
The loss of Carlo left the Bruins without two of their top four defensemen. Torey Krug missed the game with a lower-body injury suffered against Ottawa and is considered day-to-day.
Rask Subs In
Tuukka Rask did not start, but was inserted between the pipes for the third period and finished the game, making eight saves. Anton Khudobin, who had won six straight starts entering the contest, allowed three goals on 24 shots over the first two periods. The netminder was not feeling well.
"We were under the impression he was fine going into the game," said Cassidy. "That's something that happened in game or maybe wasn't feeling perfect and didn't let on."
Video: WSH@BOS: Khudobin kicks out pad to deny Kuznetsov
Schaller Back In
Tim Schaller returned to the lineup after missing the last 14 games with a lower-body injury. He began the day in a familiar spot, on the left wing alongside Dominic Moore and Riley Nash.
Schaller landed three hits in 11 minutes, 3 seconds of ice time in his first game since March 8.
"Timmy was Timmy," said Cassidy. "He plays a North-South game, he gets behind their D, forechecks, protects it. He was good on the penalty kill…no ill effects from his injury. At least not right now. He was ready to go, so that's a positive."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady attended the game and received a rousing ovation from the TD Garden crowd when he was shown on the jumbotron early in the first period. Brady's teammate, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, was also in attendance and visited with some of the Bruins in the dressing room following the game.