The Washington Capitals (50-23-8-108) clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference with at 4-2 victory over the woeful Tampa Bay Lightning last night.

The win also gives this team the franchise record for most points (108) and tied for most wins (50), matching the 1985-86 team. The Capitals face the Florida Panthers, elimiated from the playoffs last night, on Saturday with the chance to become the winningest team in regular season in the history of the franchise.

Washington will have a home-ice advantage until the conference finals and will face the yet-to-be-determined seventh seed in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens are tied for the last two spots. Montreal hosts Pittsburgh Saturday night while the Rangers travel to Philadelphia on Sunday.

As for last night's affair, Brooks Laich had two goals and Mike Green added an empty net goal to go along with two assists to drop the injury-depleted Lightning. Dave Steckel chipped in with a goal as well.

Neither Alex (Ovechkin or Semin) registered a point and both saw a multiple-game scoring streak end. Ovechkin hasn't scored a goal in his last three games. He is now four points behind Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the scoring title. Malkin has played three more games than Ovechkin this season.

Goalie Jose Theodore allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, from Tampa rookie Steve Stamkos, but settled down and made 22 saves for the victory. For the season, Theodore is 32-16-9 with a 2.81 goals against average and .901 save percentage.

Former Cap Matt Pettinger scored the other Lightning goal. It was his first goal against his former team.

Defenseman Tom Poti sat last night to rest his injured groin. The team is being cautious with the veteran blueliner, an integral part of its defensive corps. Donald Brashear missed his 13th straight game with a knee sprain.

36.0 Steven Stamkos (22), Slap Shot. Assist: Konopka, St. Louis
09:19 Power Play - Brooks Laich (21), Backhand Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Green

05:37 Brooks Laich (22), Wrist Shot. Assist: Green, Nylander
06:08 Dave Steckel (8), Wrist Shot. Assist: Bradley, Aucoin

12:53 Matt Pettinger (7), Wrist Shot. Assist: Szczechura, Mihalik
19:55 Mike Green (31), Empty Net, Unassisted.

1. B. Laich - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2. S. Stamkos - TB (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)

The Washington Capitals (49-23-8-106, first in Southeast, second in East) face the Tampa Bay Lightning (24-38-18-66, fifth in Southeast) needing only one point to clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

A win over Tampa Bay tonight, or Florida on Saturday, would set the franchise mark for points in a season and tie the team's record for wins (50) in a season.

The Capitals have defeated Tampa Bay ten straight games and try to sweep the season series for the first time in nine years. Most recently, Washington beat Tampa at home 5-3 on Mar. 27.

The Lightning are the second worst team in the league, ahead of only the New York Islanders.

Washington maintains a four-point lead over the New Jersey Devils with two games to play, so any combination of a Caps point or Devils loss seals the second seed and home-ice advantage at least until the Conference Finals.

The Caps have won four of their last five games, averaging 4.8 goals per game in that stretch. A return of secondary scoring, from Tomas Fleischmann in particular, has been considerably helpful in the stretch run and a necessary component if the Caps want to go deep in this season's playoffs.

Tuesday night's victory over Atlanta was not particularly artful, but the result was what mattered.

"It was an ugly win, but it's OK," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I think we played as good as we had to play."

The Lightning know something about ugly right now, losing five in a row and 10 of their last 11 games.

It's been a miserable season for Tampa Bay, as they started poorly and fired coach Barry Melrose just 16 games into the season, and the team has been no better under current coach Rick Tocchet.

Tampa's injury list reads like a Russian novel, and All-star center Vincent Lecavalier underwent wrist surgery last week, ending his season and complicating the beginning of next season as well.

Washington will be without the services of Donald Brashear for the 13th straight game, and Tom Poti will rest his strained groin, a problem that has plagued him all season.

WAS: PP-2nd (25.2%, 83/329); PK-18th (80.6%, 74/381)
TBY: PP-19th (18.0%, 60/333); PK-25th (78.1%, 86/393)

WAS: G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); LW Donald Brashear (Knee-IR); C Boyd Gordon (Finger-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); LW Quintin Laing (Spleen-Out); Tom Poti (Groin-Doubtful)

TBY: D Marek Malik (Lower body-Out); C Ryan Craig (Arm-Out); C Vincent Lecavalier (Wrist-Out); LW Ryan Malone (Hand-Questionable); D Josef Melichar (Lower body-Out); D Richard Petiot (Shoulder-Questionable); D Cory Murphy (Foot-Out); G Mike Smith (Concussion-IR); D Andrej Meszaros (Arm-IR); D Paul Ranger (Undisclosed-IR)

The Washington Capitals stretched their lead for second seed in the Eastern Conference to four points with two games remaining after defeating Southeast Division foe Atlanta last night 4-3. The Caps also beat Atlanta Sunday at home 6-4.

The home-and-home wins give Washington 49 victories and need one win in their last two games to record 50 wins for only the second time in franchise history.

New Jersey lost to Toronto 4-1 at home. It was the Devils seventh loss in nine games.

Simeon Varlamov stopped 29 shots for the win. The Caps got goals from Tomas Fleischmann, Viktor Kozlov, Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov, and Alex Ovechkin added two assists to keep pace with Evgeni Malkin, who leads Ovechkin by two points, for the scoring title.

Washington continues it's southeast swing Thursday night at Tampa Bay.

ed. note: Sorry to cut the review short today. I had my annual eye exam this morning and it's very tough to work on the computer with pupils dilated. I'll have more later when I can see again.

Grow One for the Cause

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, April 07, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

There's a tradition in hockey that players start growing a "playoff beard" as soon as their team qualifies for the playoffs. It's a symbol of unity and support for your teammates. The Caps (and other NHL teams) are taking the tradition one step further…asking fans, front office staff and media members to participate as well for charity.

The Washington Capitals "Beard-a-thon" benefits Caps Care, the team's non-profit arm.

You can learn more about Caps Care at this link.

To sponsor me, go to this link.

You can check out my progress, and check out the other participants as well at the main page.

Any excuse to grow a beard is a good one for me, but this one helps others too! Plus, I already have a head start!

Thanks for your support, and ROCK THE RED (BEARD)!!!

Starting Point

The Goal!

CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 80: The Caps Go Down to Georgia

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, April 07, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (48-23-8-104, first in Southeast, second in East) travel to Atlanta to meet the Thrashers (34-39-6-74, fourth in Southeast) looking to complete a home-and-home sweep and get the season-ending three-game road trip started on the right foot.

Washington needs to win two of their last three games to hit 50 wins for only the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals hold a two-point advantage over the New Jersey Devils for second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Devils host Toronto tonight.

Washington holds the season record over Atlanta at three games to two, however, the Caps have been throttled in Atlanta this season, losing both games by a combined score of 12-5.

Alex Ovechkin continues his quest for a second straight scoring championship, entering play tonight with 106 points (55 goals, 51 assists), trailing Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin by just two points. Ovie has historically performed well at Atlanta's Phillips Arena (14 goals and 11 assists in 14 games), but has been held scoreless in the two games this season.

Washington has won three of its last four games while scoring at least five goals in each victory, so it seems they have regained their scoring touch coming down the stretch. The Caps netted six goals Sunday without Ovechkin, though he did assist on Keith Aucoin's power play goal in the 6-4 victory.

Secondary scoring was the key to Sunday's win, and it was something missing from the team's arsenal through March. Aucoin, Tomas Fleischmann, Michael Nylander and Eric Fehr all scored, in addition to Alexander Semin (31 goals) and Brooks Laich (20 goals).

Fleischmann has 18 goals for the season, but just three since mid-January. He broke a 14-game scoreless drought.

Aucoin, recently recalled from AHL Hershey, has changed the dynamic of the third line since his recall. His smallish stature belies his fierceness in forechecking, and he's brought some much needed energy. His play was rewarded with some power play time in the most recent contest.

Nylander, much maligned all season, perhaps played his finest game all season, playing with a determination that has seemed to be missing for long stretches.

Simeon Varlamov is expected to play tonight, giving Jose Theodore a much-needed day off. Varlamov is auditioning for the chance to back up Theo in the playoffs, as Brent Johnson inches closer to his possible return. Johnson practiced with the team yesterday in full gear and he hopes to be able to contribute come playoff time.

Donald Brashear is listed as doubtful and will probably miss his 12th straight game.

Atlanta is led by Ilya Kovalchuk (42-48-90, minus-12) and Slava Kozlov (26-48-74, minus-11). Johan Hedberg (13-11-3, 3.51, .885) is expected to start in goal.

WAS: PP-2nd (25.3%, 83/328); PK-19th (80.3%, 74/375)
ATL: PP-12th (19.5%, 66/339); PK-29th (75.6%, 86/352)

WAS: G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); LW Donald Brashear (Knee-IR); C Boyd Gordon (Finger-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); LW Quintin Laing (Spleen-Out)

ATL: G Kari Lehtonen (Upper body-Questionable); D Anssi Salmela (Face-Questionable)