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game recap

Capitals clinch Metropolitan with win against Canadiens

Montreal fails to break wild-card tie, clings to playoff hopes

by Harvey Valentine / NHL.com Correspondent

Capitals clinch division title

MTL@WSH: Capitals clinch Metropolitan Division

The Capitals celebrate clinching the Metropolitan Division title for the fourth consecutive season after a 2-1 victory against the Canadiens

  • 00:36 •

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals clinched their fourth straight Metropolitan Division title with a 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Capital One Arena on Thursday.

Lars Eller and Nic Dowd scored, and Braden Holtby made 33 saves in for the Capitals (48-25-8), who lead the New York Islanders by three points. New York defeated the Florida Panthers 2-1 in the shootout Thursday and has one game remaining, as does Washington. 

The Capitals have won five of their past six games (5-1-0).

 

[WATCH: All Canadiens at Capitals highlights]

 

"It's certainly been a battle right up until the 81st game until it's decided," Washington coach Todd Reirden said. "I'm really proud of our team. Going through some ups and downs during the season and eventually winning out is a big accomplishment for our team and obviously the home-ice advantage, love playing here, love the fans."

Video: MTL@WSH: Dowd snaps shot past Price

Montreal (43-30-8) is tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with one game remaining. The Blue Jackets have two remaining and have three more regulation/overtime wins than the Canadiens.

"It's not over yet," Montreal captain Shea Weber said. "We'll see what happens in [Columbus'] next two games, and if we can win Saturday and for whatever reason get some good fate, we'll be in."

Weber scored, and Carey Price made 29 saves for Montreal, which is three points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the first wild card. The Montreal loss allowed Carolina to clinch a playoff berth with a 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils.

"It was definitely one of those playoff-type games and I thought overall we played pretty well," Price said. "Holtby played great."

Video: MTL@WSH: Weber buries shot from circle for PPG

Eller gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead with 1:24 remaining in the first period when he took a pass in the slot from Brett Connolly and scored on a backhand.

"The Eller line, they've been playing extremely well," Holtby said. "A lot of nights they're our best line. They bring energy, they bring momentum shifts."

The Canadiens tied it 1-1 less than a minute later when Weber scored a power-play goal from the left face-off circle with 28 seconds left.

Washington took a 2-1 lead on Dowd's goal at 2:58 of the second period. Andre Burakovsky stole the puck from Paul Byron near the Canadiens blue line and fed Dowd at the top of the slot, where he scored on a high wrist shot.

"We can't expect our top guys to score every game and win every game for us," Eller said after Washington's third and fourth lines scored. "History shows as well that it is going to be crucial to have depth and have contribution from all four lines [in the playoffs]."

Video: MTL@WSH: Eller pots backhander to open scoring

Price kept it a one-goal game when he made a pad save on Alex Ovechkin on a partial breakaway with 2:31 left in the second, but Washington was unable to tie it in the third.

"I think we did pretty good on their zone entries," Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen said of the third period. "I think our D had a lot of good sticks keep them from entering the zone without dumping the puck in."

 

They said it

"We've got a few days here to look at what's going to happen, and hopefully we're still alive by tomorrow night and give ourselves a chance here to stay in the race. But guys gave an effort. We've played well as of late and it was one shot, one goal that made the difference tonight." -- Canadiens coach Claude Julien

"It definitely ranks -- maybe even sweeter than some of the other years because I think we really had to work for it this year. We had to overcome suspensions, injuries, a lot of adversity." -- Capitals forward Lars Eller on winning the division for the fourth straight season

 

Need to know

Weber (203 goals) tied Gary Suter for 20th in NHL history among defensemen. … Eller, who played six seasons with the Canadiens, had four goals in three games against his former team this season. … The Capitals are 16-5-1 in their past 22 games and avoided their first consecutive losses in regulation since Jan. 18-20. They lost 4-1 at the Panthers on Monday.

 

What's next

Canadiens: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, SN1, TVAS, NHL.TV)

Capitals: Host the New York Islanders on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, MSG+, NHL.TV)

Video: Capitals defeat Habs, 2-1, to clinch Metropolitan

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