After playing five games in five different cities over eight nights in four time zones and two countries, the Washington Capitals finally cleared customs and returned home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. But there would be no rest for the weary; the league's schedule makers had attached a sixth game in a sixth city on the ninth night.
That sixth city was Washington, and the Caps returned to the District to take on a rested and somewhat diminished and depleted New York Rangers team at Verizon Center on Wednesday.
The Capitals could have been forgiven for showing some weariness, but it really was never evident. Washington blanked the Rangers by a 2-0 count, securing its second straight Metropolitan Division title and the league's best record for the second straight season.
Video: Williams, Holtby help Caps seal Presidents' Trophy
Braden Holtby made 24 saves to earn his ninth shutout and his 42nd win, both of which are league-leading totals. Justin Williams scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal late in the second period, deflecting an Alex Ovechkin power-play shot past New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist for all the offense Holtby would require.
Evgeny Kuznetsov netted an insurance marker early in the third period as the Capitals won their third straight game and their ninth in their last 10 outings.
As it slogged through a less than scintillating game against a Rangers team that had nothing to play for, Washington never looked slow or tired. New York sat out six regular players, and the Rangers seemed more than content to play to a scoreless tie and to settle things in overtime or a shootout, something the Blueshirts have already done on three occasions this season.
"This is a good team we were playing," says Caps forward Marcus Johansson. "It's never easy, especially on a back-to-back. We came out in the first period and for the most part we played the right way and we kept them in front of us. They have some really fast guys and they can beat you up the ice and have some good rushes. But I think we handled it pretty well.
"When we do that and we play our way, it's really tough to get in on us. And when we have Holts back there playing like that, it doesn't make it easier."
Video: Johansson, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov & Holtby after the win
Wednesday's win was the Caps' 32nd on home ice this season (32-6-2), extending a franchise record for home wins in a single season.
Washington has two games remaining now as it awaits the identity of its first-round playoff opponent. The Caps play a set of back-to-back games this weekend to close out the 2016-17 regular season. They travel to Boston for a Saturday matinee match against the Bruins in Beantown and then return home to host the Florida Panthers in the season finale on Sunday.
Shutdown Street - Wednesday's game marked the third game in a row and the 27th time in 80 games this season that the Capitals have blanked the opposition through the game's first 40 minutes. Washington's two netminders have combined for a dozen shutouts in those games, nine from Holtby and three from Philipp Grubauer.
Whitewashington - Holtby's ninth shutout of the season matches the franchise's single-season standard. Jim Carey notched nine whitewashes for the 1995-96 Capitals, and then Holtby matched that figure in 2014-15.
Holtby is now 27-4-3 over his last 36 starts, and he has permitted two or fewer goals in 41 of his 62 starts this season. Holtby is 33-2-6 in games in which he surrenders two or fewer tallies.
Wednesday's shutout was Holtby's first in the regular season against the Rangers, and it was the first time in just over seven years that a Caps netminder blanked the Blueshirts. Jose Theodore had been the last Caps goalie to shutout the Rangers; he did so on March 6, 2010 at Verizon Center.
Lifetime in the month of April during the regular season, Holtby is now 21-2-4.
Video: Trotz talks after a 2-0 win vs. the New York Rangers
Metro Roll - The Caps' win over the Rangers was Washington's seventh straight win over a Metro Division opponent. The Caps went 14-2-2 in their last 18 games within their division, and they finish the '16-17 season with an 18-7-5 mark against Metro foes.
Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears earned an important road win over the Phantoms in Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night, taking a 3-2 overtime decision from their hosts.
Travis Boyd scored the game-winner for Hershey, netting his 16th of the season with 1:19 left in the extra session. Riley Barber supplied the lone assist on the game-winner.
Liam O'Brien scored with a minute left in the first to give Hershey a 1-0 lead. Jakub Vrana and Boyd assisted on O'Brien's 10th goal of the season. After the Phantoms scored twice to take a 2-1 lead, Barber netted his 12th of the season with help from Tom Gilbert and Christian Djoos at 13:47 of the third. Barber's goal tied the game and set the stage for Boyd's overtime heroics.
Pheonix Copley made 28 saves in the Hershey nets to earn the victory.
Down to just four games remaining on the season, the Bears are back in action this weekend with a Friday game in Rochester and a Saturday visit to Toronto.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays took a 3-1 road win from the Gladiators in Atlanta on Wednesday night.
Scott Tanski, Derek Arnold and Wade Epp scored for the Stingrays and Andrew Cherniwchan chipped in with three assists in support of Parker Milner's 21-save effort in the South Carolina crease.
The Stingrays return home to host the Gladiators this weekend, and South Carolina is aiming to secure a spot in the Kelly Cup playoffs as the season heads into its final weekend.
By The Numbers - Matt Niskanen led the Capitals with 22:56 worth of ice time in Wednesday's game … Williams and Brooks Orpik led the way with four shots on net each … Ovechkin and Orpik led the Capitals with six shot attempts each … Ovechkin led the Caps with five hits … Orpik led Washington with two blocked shots.