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Capitals, Bruins play finale before playoffs begin

by Brian Hunter
BRUINS (38-30-13) at CAPITALS (54-15-12)

Last 10: Boston 6-3-1; Washington 7-1-2

Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The Capitals will be going for the sweep, although the Bruins picked up an important point in their battle for a playoff spot by getting to overtime in the most recent meeting Monday in Washington. Boston eventually lost 2-1 when Brooks Laich scored a power-play goal 44 seconds into the extra period.

Big story:
This game could have been a "must-win" for the Bruins, but they spared themselves that predicament by holding on for a 4-2 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon, clinching an Eastern Conference playoff berth. They also can't drop to eighth regardless of what happens in Sunday's game between the Flyers and Rangers, meaning they don’t have to concern themselves with playing the Capitals in the first round.

Team Scope:

Bruins: The loss of Marc Savard and a season-long struggle to score goals threatened to keep Boston out of the playoffs one season after they were the East's top seed. But the Bruins have found ways to win games down the stretch, whether through the brilliant play of rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask or, in the case of Saturday's game, the record-setting play of their penalty-killers. Daniel Paille, Blake Wheeler and Steve Begin scored shorthanded in a span of 1:06, an NHL record, to get them off to a 3-0 lead against the Hurricanes. Milan Lucic started the party at TD Garden with an empty-net goal with one minute remaining.

"It's a great feeling," said Patrice Bergeron, who turned in a heads-up defensive play in the third period to keep the Bruins from scoring into their own empty net on a delayed penalty call. "We've been waiting for this for 81 games. … It was in our destiny. We just had to go out there and have a big win, and we did that."

Capitals: With the Presidents' Trophy all wrapped up, the main focuses in Washington have been getting healthy, building momentum for the first round and chasing a few individual milestones. Alex Ovechkin reached the 50-goal plateau for the fourth time in five NHL seasons with a pair of goals in a 5-2 win over Atlanta on Friday. Nicklas Backstrom also scored twice and eclipsed 100 points for the first time in his three seasons.

"We're talking about splitting it in two halves," Backstrom said about the puck that resulted in his 100th point and Ovechkin's 50th goal. "We'll see how it is going to be. It was kind of a funny moment actually."

Who's hot:
Rask is 4-1-1 in his last six starts for the Bruins, allowing just eight goals over that span. Dennis Wideman has two goals and two assists during a four-game points streak. Zdeno Chara has an assist in four straight games.

Ovechkin has four goals and three assists in his last three games for the Capitals. Backstrom has three goals and six assists in his last three games. Alexander Semin has two goals and five assists in his last four games. Mike Knuble has two goals and two assists in his last three games. Mike Green has two goals and two assists in his last four games. Jose Theodore is 20-0-3 over his last 23 decisions.

Injury report:
Savard is questionable to play again this season for Boston as he battles post-concussion symptoms. Defensemen Andrew Ference (groin), Mark Stuart (finger) and Dennis Seidenberg (forearm) are also out of the lineup. … Washington is missing forward Tyler Sloan (upper body) and defenseman Milan Jurcina (sports hernia).

Stat pack:
The Bruins last scored three shorthanded goals in a game on March 27, 1994, a 6-4 win over the Capitals. … Washington is just the fourth NHL franchise to record 120 points in a season (joining Boston, Montreal and Detroit) and could finish with the sixth-highest single-season total in League history by winning Sunday.

Puck drop: The pressure is off for Boston, which could give Rask a day off and start veteran Tim Thomas, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who has been relegated to backup status.

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