The Washington Capitals clinched a playoff berth in the penultimate game of the season on Thursday night, defeating Southeast Division leading Florida 4-2. With Buffalo's 2-1 loss in Philadelphia, the Caps are assured a spot but still have a shot at home ice and a Southeast Division title with this win over Florida.
The Capitals took a 3-0 lead on second period goals by Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich. Ovechkin's goal was an impressive effort as he skated across the front of Jose Theodore and flipped the puck past his former teammate as he fell to the ice. Laich ripped a shot past Theodore just two minutes later for the three-goal lead. But Florida would not go quietly, as Mikael Samuelsson ended the shutout with five minutes remaining in the second. Samuelsson fired a quick wrister from the left wing to make it 3-1.
The Panthers made it real interesting right at the start of the third, as Ed Jovanovski scored his third goal of the season just 42 seconds into the period to make it a one-goal game. Jovanovski ripped one from center ice out top and a screen in front obscured Braden Holtby who never saw the puck. Holtby, who replaced Michal Neuvirth after he sustained a leg injury, stood strong throughout the third period and kept the lead until an Alexander Semin score with a minute remaining pushed it back to two-goals. Semin skated in from the corner and faked Theodore with a quick backhand to the near post for his 21st goal of the year.
Just two points behind the Panthers, Washington can clinch the No. 3 seed with a win over the Rangers on Saturday night and a Panthers loss to Carolina,
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