Reporting Sky Kerstein
The Capitals dominate the Florida Panthers 5-2 in their last regular season home game of the year. The Capitals had their 101st consecutive home sellout and the fans didn’t have to wait long to rock the red. Just 1:20 into the first Mike Knuble tipped it in off a perfect pass from Brooks Laich and gave the Caps an early 1-0 lead. The rest of the period the Caps were dominated on shots, but as Bruce Boudreau stated later, Semyon Varlamov kept them in the game. With just 37 seconds remaining in the period, Jason Chimera knocked in a power play goal and the Caps led 2-0 after one despite being out shot 18-6 in the period.
In the second period the Capitals responded better and Sean Collins put in his first of the season to make it 3-0 Caps going to the third. Bruce Boudreau said that Collins is taking advantage of his opportunity. The Caps even out shot the Panthers 10-8 and as Bruce Boudreau said afterwards, the third goal was really the key to the game. In the third the Caps made it 4-0 when Matt Hendricks snuck the puck by Scott Clemmensen’s side and people started heading to the exits. Well the Panthers made it a little exciting when they put in two late goals, but Alex Ovechkin knocked in an empty netter to clinch the 5-2 win and give the Caps a four point advantage over Philly in the East with the Flyers having one game in hand.
The Caps end up 25-8-8 at home which is the best winning percentage at home in the NHL. The Flyers travel to Buffalo on Friday and host the Islanders on Saturday, if they lose one of those games or the Caps beat the Panthers in Florida on Saturday, the Caps will be the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the second straight season. The Caps are 39-0-3 when scoring three goals or more, 27-3-4 when scoring a power play goal and 21-7-6 when out shot. The Caps also are 5 of 9 in their last three games on the power play and Bruce Boudreau said afterwards that if they get the power play going it gives them another element to their game.
Jason Arnott and Scott Hannan were scratched and Bruce Boudreau said afterwards it was for rest, but wasn’t so committal doing the same thing on Saturday, “We still have to wait to see what’s at stake on Saturday before we start taking anything for granted. We are watching the scoreboards and seeing what’s going on.”
Even though the Caps have one game left, Brooks Laich is ready for the playoffs to begin now, “We feel [like] we have a very good hockey team. We’ve shown it in the past few years in the regular season, but now we have to take the next step and that’s playoff success.”
Semyon Varlamov had 31 saves and received the hard hat on the way to his 11th win of the season. Bruce Boudreau is very confident in the goaltending heading into the playoffs, “We can put one of three guys in and I know we are going to get a good game. I’m not knocking anyone else, but that is the way I feel.”
The Capitals will have tomorrow off then practice at 9am on Friday at Kettler before taking off to Florida for their last regular season game on Saturday against the Panthers. Next time the Caps play at home will be next week in game one of the Eastern Confernce Quarterfinals, but should know their opponent Saturday night. Check out what Bruce Boudreau, Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera and Sean Collins had to say following the win.
1st 1:20 PP Knuble (24), Laich (31), Ovechkin (52)
1st 19:23 PP Chimera (10), Backstrom (46), Laich (32)
2nd 11:42 Collins (1), Ovechkin (53)
3rd 6:37 Hendricks (9), Gordon (6), Schultz (9)
3rd 19:48 EN Ovechkin (32), Backstrom (47)
Jason Chimera Postgame Audio
Matt Hendricks Postgame Audio
Sean Collins Postgame Audio
Sky Kerstein is 106.7 The FAN’s Capitals Beat Reporter and co-host of “Morning Skate” every Sunday from 9am-10am on 106.7 The FAN. Also you can find video recaps of every Caps game and post-game interviews on www.1067thefandc.com. You can get in touch with Sky on Facebook or via Twitter at www.twitter.com/SkyKerstein.