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Ovi blanked as Bruins top Caps in shootout

by Corey Masisak
WASHINGTON Alexander Semin reached his milestones, but other Washington Capitals players fell shy of their individual goals in a final matinee before the start of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

David Krejci and Miroslav Satan scored in the shootout and the Boston Bruins finished the 2009-10 regular season Sunday afternoon with a 4-3 victory at sold-out Verizon Center. More importantly for the Capitals and the Bruins is both teams made it through this contest injury-free and preparation for the postseason can commence.

"Well, we're really glad it is over," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We've know for a long time that we were going to be in the playoffs. As much as you want to push them, they are looking forward to a different kind of challenge."

Michael Ryder scored twice for the Bruins, who rested key players Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi after wrapping up the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference Saturday via their win against Carolina and Montreal's overtime loss to Toronto. Boston will travel to either New Jersey or Buffalo to start their postseason run depending on the outcome of the Sabres-Devils game later Sunday.

The Capitals had already earned the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Washington will welcome either Montreal or the N.Y. Rangers to Verizon Center later this week for a first-round series pending the result of New York's contest in Philadelphia.

Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, who hadn't played in six games, made 34 saves and stopped Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley in the shootout to earn the victory. It has been a trying year for Thomas, who won the Vezina trophy after last season, but has yielded the No. 1 job to rookie Tuukka Rask.

"Considering that I haven't got a lot of playing time, I felt like I played well," Thomas said. "I'm real proud of the young guys in the lineup. They gave great effort."

Added Boston coach Claude Julien: "I think he was great. We had a good chat before the game. Our players in front of him were going to play hard and support him. We weren't coming here just to put in our time."

Washington had several players vying for individual achievements. Semin collected his 40th goal of the season and 300th point of his career with a marker 2:23 into the first period.

Others were not as fortunate. Mike Green entered the day with 19 goals, but none of his 10 shots attempts beat Thomas. Mike Knuble netted his 29th of the season, but could not reach 30 for the third time in his career.

Alex Ovechkin began the final day of the regular season three points behind Vancouver's Henrik Sedin in the battle for the Art Ross trophy. He was also tied with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals, but was held off the scoresheet. Ovechkin cannot win the Ross trophy for the second time and will have to wait and see if he claims a share of the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy.

Boudreau tried to help his players as much as he could. He moved Semin to the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to see if they could recreate their magic from Friday night. After Knuble scored, Boudreau put him back with Ovechkin and Backstrom to help his bid for 30.

Once the overtime session was over, Boudreau decided to reward his fourth line by letting them participate in the shootout. Gordon missed the net high and Thomas stopped Bradley, while David Steckel would have been the third shooter for the Capitals.

Twenty seconds after Semin put Washington in front, Capitals forward Jason Chimera collided with Thomas and chaos ensued. The Boston netminder took exception and started throwing punches, and several other players joined the fray.

Chimera and Thomas had to be pulled away from each other a couple of times after the dust settled, and their quarrel continued for much of the contest. The officials handed Chimera a 10-minute misconduct shortly after he came out of the penalty box for serving his penalty from the original scrum.

Later in the game he skated through the crease and made contact with Thomas. He also received a cross-checking penalty while standing near the top of the goal crease.

"Spent a lot of time in the penalty box, that's for sure," said Chimera, who was playing in his 500th game. "That wasn't what I wanted to do, but it's a great milestone. You play a long time in this game and you'll get to 500. It's a special day."

Ryder scored the next two goals to give Boston the lead and him 18 for the season. One of them was a power-play marker – the team's first in eight games. Eric Belanger leveled the score 19 seconds after Ryder's second tally. It was his second goal in 17 games since joining the team on trade deadline day.

Knuble deflected a shot from Green past Thomas at the 9:59 mark of the third period, but Marco Strum ripped a shot from the high slot past Semyon Varlamov with 4:18 left in regulation to force overtime.

"I thought it was a good effort," Julien said. "Despite [missing] some key players, they competed hard to start from finish and obviously that gave us a chance."

Varlamov made 35 saves in only his ninth start (10th appearance) for the Capitals since Dec. 7. He missed two months with multiple injuries, and Jose Theodore's hot play has kept him from having much of a chance to claim the starting job as the postseason approaches.

"It is kind of a weird day and weird games here where they really don't matter," Knuble said. "You're playing hard but you're really not. It is a different kind of urgency. Both teams are ready to move on and kind of have their minds somewhere else a little bit. I think we're all looking forward to next week, to be honest."

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