For the fourth straight season, the Washington Capitals are your Southeast Division champs, thanks to Mike Knuble's shootout goal. The Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 (OT shootout), but even if they had faltered tonight, the Buffalo Sabres defeat of the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier in the evening had clinched the division for the Caps, also ending the late season playoff push of the Maple Leafs in the process. The Caps also have a chance to be the top seed in next week's Eastern Conference playoffs, trailing the Philadelphia Flyers by just one point in the standings with two games to play.
The Capitals tallies in regulation came from one likely source, Alex Ovechkin, and one very unlikely source, defenseman John Erskine. Washington outshot Toronto 41-21, but was unable to score more than twice due to the superb play of Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer. Reimer showed tonight why he has been one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL since the first of the year, stopping 39 of 41 shots in regulation and overtime.
The Capitals finish the year with a home and home against the Florida Panthers ... and then it's playoff time folks. Rock that Red.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are not going to make it easy for Bruce Boudreau's Capitals. Just a minute and a half into the second period, Toronto took a 2-1 lead on Joffrey Lupul's goal off a beautiful Phil Kessel feed.
The Caps answered at the 7:53 mark, as John Erskine scored off a deflection to knot the game at two. It was Erskine's first goal in 46 games.
The second period also saw our first glove-dropping chippiness, as Washington's Jason Chimera tangled with Toronto's Mike Komisarek.
Toronto goaltender James Reimer has played well, despite the two goals allowed. He has made 23 saves, and was particularly effective turning away a barrage of Caps shots on a late second period Washington power play.
With a win Washington can clinch at least share of the Southeast Division title, and the Caps still have a chance to be the #1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference if things shake out right.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, desperate to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, are tied with the Washington Capitals 1-1 after the first 20 minutes of ice time. Both teams have scored their goals on the power play.
Nikolai Kulemin lit the lamp early for Toronto, scoring on the power play after John Carlson of the Caps was whistled for holding. But as he has done his entire career (22 goals in 22 games vs. Leafs), Alex Ovechkin scored his 31st goal of the season after a penalty. It was also the 300th career goal for Washington's superstar winger. Ovie was in fact inches away from a second goal of the period off a vintage juke move that showed the Capitals leader is rounding into form nicely just in time for what fans hope will be an extended Washington playoff run.
Dueling rookies battle between the pipes tonight, as Michael Neuvirth has stopped four of the five shots he faced, and fellow rook James Reimer has stopped eight of the nine shots he has faced.
The Washington Capitals will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, and will do so without the services of Alexander Semin. The Capitals' winger will remain in D.C. and not make the road trip, according to Mike Vogel of WashingtonCapitals.com.
#Caps winger Alexander Semin did not travel with the team to Toronto and won't play vs the Leafs tonight.
It's not clear if there is anything wrong with Semin physically, though he did miss an extended period of time earlier in the season with an injury. The likely reality is that the Capitals are looking to rest some of their key players as the NHL Playoffs nears. The team sat Alex Ovechkin down for a week to let him heal, and it seems at this point like the same is happening with Semin.
The Capitals will take several injuries with them into the playoffs, most notably on the blue line, with Mike Green and Dennis Wideman out of action with head and leg injuries.
Over the last few years, the Washington Capitals haven't had to play the role of spoiler. Yet, Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they can do just that by eliminating the Leafs from playoff contention as well as dashing the hopes of a Southeast Division championship for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With a win Tuesday, the Caps can mathematically eliminate the Leafs from postseason contention and clinch their fourth consecutive Southeast Division title. A Lightning loss to the Buffalo Sabres would also clinch the division for Washington. First place in the Eastern Conference is also at stake. A win and either a regulation loss or overtime loss for the Philadelphia Flyers would put Washington back on top of the East. A overtime loss and a Flyers regulation loss would also help.
The Caps' defensive corps has been shorthanded for most of the season as MIke Green, Tom Poti and now Dennis Wideman are all suffering from numerous injuries. Green and Poti will not travel to Toronto Tuesday, but Green did not rule out the possibility of a return in Washington's final two games against the Florida Panthers.
The forwards aren't shielded from injuries, either. Alexander Semin took a maintenance day Monday and head coach Bruce Boudreau said that there might be a chance that Semin might miss one of the remaining three games.