Ovechkin, Capitals secure No. 1 spot in East
Defeat Ottawa to clinch Eastern Conference top seed in Stanley Cup Playoffsby Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent
OTTAWA -- The Washington Capitals clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday.
Mike Richards, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie scored for the Capitals (52-15-5), who also won the Metropolitan Division and ended a three-game losing streak on the road.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby made 28 saves for his 44th win of the season. He needs four more victories to tie Martin Brodeur for the most wins in a season (48). Brodeur set the record with the New Jersey Devils in 2006-07.
The Capitals, coming off a 6-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, avoided losing back-to-back games in regulation for the first time this season.
Video: WSH@OTT: Richards nets opening goal off turnover
Chris Wideman and Mika Zibanejad scored for the Senators (34-32-8) and Craig Anderson made 18 saves.
Although they won and locked down the top seed, the Capitals weren't happy with letting their 3-0 lead slip away.
"That's what won us the game, really (getting the lead), because we weren't the better team tonight and that was pretty evident," Holtby said. "We got some goals early and that's kind of the opposite of what we've been doing lately with a good start and then tailed off the rest of the game.
"I think we're all kind of sick of the way we've kind of played at times the last couple of months. You can tell it's starting to turn. Everyone is realizing you kind of have to hit that bottom and tonight you could kind of tell that's where we turn it around now."
Video: WSH@OTT: Backstrom's sneaky shot gets past Anderson
The Capitals started with a 33-7-3 record and are 19-8-2 since Jan. 14.
The Capitals jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead with Richards opening the scoring at 2:32 after a turnover by Senators wing Bobby Ryan.
Ovechkin scored his 43rd on the power play at 12:22 for a 2-0 lead, putting in a sharp pass by Marcus Johansson which found Ovechkin at the backdoor to Anderson's right.
It was a good play, but one Senators captain Erik Karlsson said the Senators should have prevented.
Video: WSH@OTT: Wideman beats Holtby with perfect shot
"We're playing the best team in the League. They're getting the puck where they want the puck to go, and they're making good reads out there," he said. "Their power play goal, that's all we talk about, take that away, but what are you going to do when they make passes like that and time it like that? ... Letting in three goals in the first is not going to help us win against the Washington Capitals."
Backstrom scored off the rush at 14:37, finishing off a three-way passing play with Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle to give Washington a 3-0 lead.
The Senators had a good chance to get into the game when they had a 5-on-3 advantage for 63 seconds at 17:01 of the first period. Karlsson hit the crossbar and Holtby made a good save on a shot off a rebound by Zack Smith to keep the Senators scoreless.
The Senators haven't scored a power play goal in 10 games (0-for-27).
Video: WSH@OTT: Oshie puts it home into the empty net
Wideman scored in the second period at 12:33 when his long wrist shot from the right point found the net to Holtby's right. It was Wideman's sixth goal of the season.
Zibanejad scored with 1:33 left in the third to make it 3-2 when his shot along the goal line bounced in off Holtby. Oshie scored into an empty net.
"In the second, we [felt] a little bit loose and tried to play fancy hockey and you can see it's not going to work like that," Ovechkin said. "The first period, we put the puck deep and we played hard. We tried to create offense and it worked well, not like in the second."
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said not giving up a goal when the Senators had the 5-on-3 was a turning point because things went downhill for the Capitals from there.
Video: WSH@OTT: Williams dances on the Capitals' bench
"Then in the second it wasn't very good hockey. It was a turnover festival for both teams," he said. "I thought both teams were turning the puck over left and right. We spent a lot of time in our zone and didn't get any shots.
"We managed it well enough to get the win and we move on."
With the top seed in the East locked up, Trotz said the Capitals will turn their attention to their next goal: winning the Presidents' Trophy.
"We're knocking one goal at a time down. We wanted to finish first in our division. That was No. 1. We wanted to see if we could finish first in the East. That was No. 2. The Presidents' Trophy would be next. It's hard to win in this League. I don't take anything for granted."
The Capitals have 109 points in 72 games. The Dallas Stars, their closest pursuers have 97 points after 74 games.
Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf sustained a lower-body injury and left the game. He will not travel with the team to New York when they will play the New York Islanders on Wednesday. Defenseman Fredrick Claesson was called up from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.