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Playoff-bound Capitals wrap up regular season vs. Panthers

By Dan Pieringer

Stats Writer

Washington (50-23-8) at Florida (40-30-11) 7:00 pm. EDT

SUNRISE, Florida (AP) -- The Washington Capitals finally know

exactly where they'll finish in the Eastern Conference playoff

race. Unfortunately for the Florida Panthers, they have a pretty

good idea where they'll end up as well.

After securing the No. 2 seed in the East, the Capitals look to

do some fine-tuning for the playoffs in their regular-season

finale Saturday night when they visit the Panthers, again

eliminated from postseason contention.

Washington (50-23-8) clinched second place in the East by

winning 4-2 at Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Brooks Laich had two

goals as the Capitals set a franchise record by reaching 108

points and tied a team mark with 50 wins, matching the 1985-86


The Capitals, however, won't be satisfied until their

record-breaking regular season pays off in the playoffs.

"We're definitely proud of our accomplishments, but we haven't

done nothing yet," said defenseman Mike Green, who added a goal

and two assists against the Lightning.

Though he agrees that this is one of the best seasons in

franchise history, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau says he won't

know for sure until after the postseason.

"I think you've got to rank this team up there with a lot of

them," said Boudreau, whose club has recorded at least one point

in seven straight (5-0-2).

"I think it's quite an accomplishment in today's day and age

with the salary cap and all the teams have the ability to be

equal. But I think the best team in Capitals history has got to

win the Stanley Cup because they've been there and lost it."

The Panthers (40-30-11) won't be playing for the Cup this spring

after getting knocked out of the playoff race Thursday. They

picked up a 3-2 win at Atlanta, but the New York Rangers and

Montreal earned points to clinch the last two playoff berths in

the East.

"You look back for one point throughout the year - that's hard

to take," said winger David Booth, who scored the winning goal

against the Thrashers with 4:25 left in the third period.

Florida has gone 5-2-0 over its last seven to reach its highest

point total since its last playoff appearance in 1999-2000, but

that's little consolation as the Panthers will sit out their

eighth straight postseason.

"You don't lose (a chance at the playoffs) in the last few

games. It's the whole course of the season. It's about

consistency," goaltender Tomas Vokoun said.

The Panthers have gone 2-3-0 against the Southeast Division

rival Capitals this season, including 0-2-0 at home.

Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who's second in the NHL with 108

points, has recorded at least one in all five games against

Florida this season, totaling four goals and three assists.

Ovechkin, first in the league with 55 goals, has been held

without one in each of his last three games after totaling five

in his previous four.

Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe has two goals and three assists

in Florida's two wins over Washington but has been held without

a point in the three losses.


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