Capitals postgame column 41524

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals returned to their locker room following a 2-0 win against the Boston Bruins on Monday to learn they received no help on the out-of-town scoreboard in their bid to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Detroit Red Wings came back from a three-goal deficit to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in overtime, and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators 4-2, resulting in no change in the race for the second and final wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

“It doesn’t matter,” more than one Capitals player said while walking to his locker stall.

It doesn’t because, thanks to its thorough effort against Boston, Washington continues to control its postseason destiny heading into its regular-season finale at the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MNMT, NBCSCP, TVAS2, SNP, SNW).

With each team having one game remaining, the Capitals (39-31-11) are tied with the Red Wings (40-32-9) for the second wild card. They’re also one point ahead of the Penguins (38-31-12) and two ahead of the Flyers (38-32-11).

Washington owns the tiebreaker over Detroit (31 regulation wins versus 27), so if it wins at Philadelphia, it will clinch the second wild card -- and a date with the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round -- regardless of what the Red Wings do in their regular-season finale at Montreal on Tuesday or what Pittsburgh does in its finale at the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

“We take care of our business, we know where we're going to be at,” Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren said. “Our focus is focus on us and let's get after it.”

Washington hoped to be in this position when it began the season after failing to qualify for the playoffs last season for the first time since 2014. But it’s been a rocky road to get here.

Six straight losses (0-5-1) from Jan. 20-Feb. 8 dropped the Capitals seven points behind the Red Wings for the second wild card. They rebounded to go 14-6-2 in their next 22 games, including a 6-1-0 push from March 14-26 that moved them two points ahead of the Red Wings for the second wild card.

That was followed by another six-loss slide (0-4-2) from March 28-April 7 that dropped them out of a playoff spot before they recovered with three wins in their past four games to give them this win-and-get-in opportunity against the Flyers.

“I think it’s pretty fitting for what this group has been through that it would come down to the last game, going on the road playing a back to back against a real good hockey team to play one game,” Washington coach Spencer Carbery said. “One game for our playoff lives and for us to get to this point, we had to look after tonight. I thought our guys did a really good job of staying focused on just tonight, worry about Boston, and it was as clean a game as we’ve had.”

Despite missing two of their top four defenseman with Rasmus Sandin and Nick Jensen each out with an upper-body injury, the Capitals played one of their most complete team defensive games of the season, limiting the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins to 16 shots on goal.

Lindgren did his part, stopping them all for his sixth shutout of the season (tying for the NHL lead). Defenseman John Carlson’s center-point shot goal 12:00 into the first period stood up as the game-winner with Nic Dowd adding an empty-net goal with 13 seconds remaining.

“I thought we played really well in all three zones,” said Carlson, who logged a game-high 29:33 of ice time. “I thought we should've had a lot more (goals). We were swarming the net against a tough defending team. I thought we got a lot of chances and didn't get discouraged by not maybe having a few more than we did earlier on in the game and found a way.

“‘Chucky’ came up with some big stops there sporadically throughout the whole game, and when it's tight like that, that's enormous.”

Lindgren, who began the season as the backup behind Darcy Kuemper, has played a large role in the Capitals getting this far, playing in 25 of their past 28 games. Carbery didn’t commit to Lindgren starting again against the Flyers, but Lindgren vowed, “If I get the call, I'll be ready.”

It appears he’s earned the right to help the Capitals complete this journey.

“We’ll talk about that as a staff on what our lineup looks like for tomorrow,” Carbery said. “He’s been fantastic all year, arguably our MVP, a big reason why we are in the spot we are, and tonight was no different. His workload wasn’t a ton, but when we needed him to be there, he was there.”

Washington last was in a situation where it needed to win its final regular-season game to clinch a playoff berth in 2008, when it defeated the Florida Panthers 3-1 to cap a seven-game winning streak.

That was Alex Ovechkin’s third NHL season and his first trip to the postseason with an up-and-coming group of players who would form the core of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Now in his 19th season, Ovechkin, 38, is among the few remaining members of that Cup core along with T.J. Oshie, 37, Carlson, 34, and Tom Wilson, 30. But Ovechkin sees some similarities with this team because of some of the youth the Capitals have infused into their lineup such as Connor McMichael, 23, Aliaksei Protas, 23, Hendrix Lapierre, 22, Martin Fehervary, 24, and Sandin, 24.

“We had a young team, so it kind of reminds of back then,” Ovechkin said. “We had a young team, not experienced, but we stick together, we stick to the plan, and we made the playoffs.”

The Capitals can do it again with one more win.

Related Content