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Florida Panthers beat Washington Capitals 7-4 in season finale

NHL.com @NHL

SUNRISE, Fla. - David Booth had two goals and three assists to lift the Florida Panthers to a 7-4 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Steve Eminger and Michael Frolik scored eight seconds apart to break a 4-4 tie in the third period. Nick Tarnasky added an empty-netter with nine seconds remaining.

Radek Dvorak and Bryan McCabe also scored for the Panthers, who were eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday. Booth's goals were his 30th and 31st of the season; he became the sixth player in Florida's franchise history to reach the 30-goal mark.

Alexander Semin scored twice for Washington, and Brooks Laich and Alexander Ovechkin also got goals. The Capitals clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference on Thursday.

With his assist on Semin's goal, Ovechkin tied his career high for assists in a season with 54, matching the total he set in his rookie season.

Ovechkin finished the season likely to win the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer. He had 56 goals this season, 11 more than Philadelphia centre Jeff Carter.

The Capitals will face the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which start Wednesday.

Saturday's game was the end of the line for the Panthers, who haven't been in the post-season since 2000. Florida came tantalizingly close to the playoffs this year, finishing with 93 points.

Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun made 37 saves, while Jose Theodore stopped 35 shots for Washington.

Booth broke a 3-3 tie with his goal at 6:40 in the third period, but at 13:09 in the third, Ovechkin beat Vokoun to make it 4-4. Eminger's goal, his first for the Panthers, came at 15:32 to break the 4-4 tie. Then Frolik put home a rebound of a Booth shot at 15:40 in the third, giving Florida a 6-4 lead.

With 4:07 remaining in the second, Ovechkin's pass went off Tarnasky and ricocheted toward Semin, who was near the crease. He picked up the loose puck and closed the gap to 3-2. Then Semin's power-play goal tied it at 3-3 at 3:27 of the third period.

The Panthers went up 3-1 on McCabe's power-play goal with 8:02 left in the second period. Booth's pass set up the goal.

Dvorak's breakaway goal at 8:20 in the second period gave Florida a 2-1 lead. Dvorak, who had just come out of the penalty box, took a pass from Karlis Skrastins near the blue line and beat Theodore with a slap shot from the slot. Booth tied it at 1-1 with 4:10 left in the first period. He threw the puck toward the net and it bounced off a Capitals player and into the net.

Washington opened the scoring at 10:15 in the first. Semin fed the puck to Laich after Florida defenceman Keith Ballard turned it over. Laich shot from the high slot to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead with his third goal in two games.

Notes: Washington beat the Panthers 3-1 in last year's final regular-season game, a game that the Capitals needed to win to advance to the post-season. ... Before Saturday's game, Florida D Jay Bouwmeester was honoured as the team's defenceman of the year and Booth was selected as the MVP.

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