Capitals Clinch Southeast: Capitals 3, Maple Leafs 2 (SO)

The Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs entered tonight’s game with a lot at stake as many playoff spots had yet to be determined. By the time Mike Knuble‘s shootout winner found the back of the twine, much had been decided. By virtue of the Buffalo Sabres beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators beating the Philadelphia Flyers:

-The Capitals clinched their 4th consecutive Southeast Division Title
-The Capitals took over first place in the Eastern Conference
-The Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from playoff contention

It wasn’t a pretty game by any means, the Leafs and Caps exchanged goals, and the Caps rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 defecits, and it took a 4-round shootout to decide the outcome.

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Read On!

-The Good: 

-The Caps powerplay worked with Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin manning the points.  On a 5-on-3 in the first period, Ovechkin teed up a one-timer from the point on a pass from Laich, who promptly fished the puck out of the goal as it was the 300th of Ovie’s career.  Late in the second period, the Caps kept the puck in the zone for 1:50 with a demonstration of passing skill and puck movement, leading to several scoring opportunities.

Defense.  The Caps D held the Leafs to 19 shots on goal and only 1 even-strength goal against.  The Caps also held scoring star Phil Kessel to just 2 shots on goal. 

Scoring Defense.  Big John Erskine returned from injury to play his usual brand of physical hockey. He also got a lucky bounce on a long-range slap shot to tie the game in the 2nd period. 

-The Bad: 

-Making the goalie look good.  Leafs rookie goalie James Reimer (38 saves) played a solid game, but the Caps weren’t getting the kind of second and third whacks at the puck necessary to get rebound goals.  If the Caps want to score in the playoffs, they’ll have to do better.

-Making Joffrey Lupul look good.  Toronto didn’t waste much time before taking an early second period lead, as Joffrey Lupul scored on a well-timed pass through the crease from Phil Kessel, beating Jeff Schultz and Michal Neuvirth to the far post.

The Penalty Kill.  With John Carlson in the box for holding, Nikolai Kulemin struck first for the Leafs off a rush.  Mikhail Grabovsky made sure to get the puck for Kulemin to commemorate his first 30-goal season. The PK finished 1-for-2 on the night. 

-The Ugly: 

-The hard hitting.  Jason Chimera leveled Darryl Boyce into the boards in the neutral zone midway through the second period.  As Boyce was getting to his feet, Mike Komisarek dropped his gloves and challenged Chimera to a fight that resulted in offsetting five minute majors.  Komisarek also added a late punch while Chimera was already prone on the ice. 

-The shootout.  It took 7 shooters before Knuble potted the first and only shootout goal.  The Leafs only seemed interested in shooting high-glove on Neuvi, while Ovi had trouble even getting the puck on net.  

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Reimer makes a diving save on Johansson.

It wasn’t a pretty game by any means, the Leafs and Caps exchanged goals, and the Caps rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 defecits. With John Carlson in the box for holding, Nikolai Kulemin struck first for the Leafs. Mikhail Grabovsky made sure to get the puck for Kulemin to commemorate his first 30-goal season.
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