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Capitals, Maple Leafs each clinch playoff berth

Washington leads Metropolitan Division; Toronto third in Atlantic

by Mike Battaglino / Staff Writer

The Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs each clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday.

The Capitals clinched when the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in overtime. The Maple Leafs clinched when the Ottawa Senators defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime.


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"It's the first step on the way," Washington forward Lars Eller said Wednesday after a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers. "At the same time, in year's past ... you tend to take the foot off the gas a little bit and we don't want to do that. We want to win our division and go into the playoffs on a high note."

Washington (46-24-7) leads the Metropolitan Division by five points over Pittsburgh. The Capitals have made the playoffs four straight seasons but have lost in the Eastern Conference Second Round each time, the past two as the top seed.

"It's one of the goals, for sure," Washington goalie Braden Holtby said. "The NHL how it is, it doesn't really matter where you are in the standings. You've just got to make the playoffs, and that was one of our goals this year. We knew there was going to be some ups and downs, and one of the main goals was making the playoffs. ... It's good. The guys should be proud. We should be proud we're in a position like that and you move on to the next goal."

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Capitals clinch playoff birth

Toronto (46-24-7) is in the playoffs for a second straight season after making it once in the previous 11 (2012-13). The Maple Leafs are third in the Atlantic Division, seven points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and eight behind the Boston Bruins.

Toronto has not won a playoff series since 2003-04.

"Playoffs are the best time of the year, and [we're] excited for that obviously," Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen said Thursday. "It's going to be a whole lot of fun. I know the guys are excited to get that going and we're just pumped for it."

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Maple Leafs clinch playoff birth

The Maple Leafs defeated the Panthers 4-3 on Wednesday. The 46 wins are most in their history.

"I think those things are all great, but we've got bigger plans," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We're just moving along and trying to get better." correspondent Brian McNally contributed to this report.

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