OTTAWA – Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals know they still have room to improve going into the playoffs.
Ovechkin scored his 43rd goal and the Capitals clinched the Metropolitan Division and the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
“It’s huge,” Ovechkin said. “I think we deserve how we play all year to clinch it. Right now, 10 games left, I think we just have to play more simple and be ready for the playoffs.”
Mike Richards, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, with an empty net, also scored for the Capitals. Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots.
“It’s one of those things where we’re not in a playoff push, but with 10 games left and we’re not playing the way we want to play it’s almost a blessing in disguise that we can wrap it up,” Holtby said.
“Now we have something to play for. We want to make sure we’re getting to our top level coming into Game 1 of the playoffs and it’s a luxury that we have 10 games to do it and now it’s our job to use them effectively and that’s our goal as a collective group.”
The Capitals were pleased with how they started the game, but know they need to be better for 60 minutes.
“Obviously we had a very good start,” Ovechkin said. “Scored three goals right away and didn’t give them anything, but we just have to continue to play all three periods like that. I think 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.”
Stars 6, Blackhawks 2
In Chicago, Vernon Fiddler scored two of Dallas’ four goals in the first period, and the Stars clinched a playoff spot with a victory over the Blackhawks.
Lightning 6, Red Wings 2
In Tampa, Erik Condra ended a 20-game drought with a pair of goals to lead the Lightning past Detroit.
Blue Jackets 3, Flyers 2 (SO)
In Columbus, Boone Jenner scored late in the third period and again in the shootout after Cam Atkinson’s tying goal with 8 seconds left, rallying the Blue Jackets to an improbable victory over Philadelphia.
Wild 2, Kings 1
In St. Paul, Minnesota, Devan Dubnyk made a season-high 38 saves and the Wild beat Los Angeles to move back into possession of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Blues 1, Sharks 0
In San Jose, Brian Elliott made 37 saves in his second consecutive shutout since returning from an injury, and Robby Fabbri scored midway through the third period.
Canadiens 4, Ducks 3
In Montreal, Lucas Lessio scored his first goal in 11 games with the Canadiens.
Sabres 3, Hurricanes 2
In Raleigh, North Carolina, Johan Larsson scored with 2:49 left and Buffalo rallied to beat the Hurricanes.
Jets 2, Canucks 0
In Winnipeg, Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season.
Coyotes 4, Oilers 2
In Glendale, Arizona, Tobias Rieder scored the winning goal in the second period and Oliver Ekman-Larsson returned from injury to spark Arizona against Edmonton.