for this game

Capitals top Panthers, win Southeast Division

Apr 6, 2008 - 5:33 AM
By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- The Washington Capitals completed their quest for the postseason, and they didn't even need Alex Ovechkin's help this time.

While Ovechkin was kept off the scoresheet, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin each had a goal and an assist to lead the Capitals to their seventh straight victory Saturday, a 3-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers that secured the Southeast Division title.

"The whole season has been a dream," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I couldn't have written a better script. It's like a Cinderella story."

"I think it's only one step," Ovechkin added. "We don't have to stop. It's just the beginning for our team."

Tomas Fleischmann also scored and Cristobal Huet posted his ninth straight win for Washington (43-31-8), which captured the fourth division crown in franchise history and its first since 2000-01.

"We worked hard for it every game," Huet said. "We believed in it, and the more we were winning, the more we believed in ourselves. It wasn't easy at all. Everybody (else) was winning. It's just unbelievable that we finished third (in the Eastern Conference). We're so happy right now."

"They had a lot on the line, and it made the difference," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "They controlled their own fate. They knew they had to get a point tonight and they were a more desperate team."

The Capitals, who finished last in the Southeast each of the previous three seasons, have not been to the playoffs since 2002-03. Fedorov believes the team has the right makeup in order to make some noise this postseason.

"We can go as deep as we want, we could stumble right away, we could do a lot of things," he said. "I'm not sure of the answer. I know one thing - the work ethic is there. We understand what we've been through, and all we have to do is keep these winning habits, keep that winning attitude and work as hard as we work.

"I think we've got a mature group of guys to understand that. And looking at the younger guys, they're excited as (heck). They can overcome all that nervousness by working twice as hard. So we'll see what happens."

Entering with 11 goals in his previous 11 games, Ovechkin will receive the Maurice Richard Trophy for leading the league with 65 goals and also is atop the NHL with 112 points, six more than Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who will be in action Sunday against Philadelphia.

"You look at Alex Ovechkin and the way he is playing, probably the best player in the league right now," Martin said. "He's really made some strides this year, but also, they play a team game as well. When you look at their hockey club, they play a strong, physical game and you have got to really play hard to beat them."

The win eliminated Carolina (43-33-6) from the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The Hurricanes lost at home to the Panthers on Friday.

"Both barns were full of energy and extremely loud, and both teams were playing as hard as they could," Florida's Stephen Weiss said. "We tried our best to spoil (Washington's) party, too, but just fell a little short."

Owners of the league's longest current winning streak, the Capitals won 11 of their final 12 games of the regular season. The seven-game run is their longest since February 9-23, 1993.

"Quite frankly, it's very addictive," Fedorov said. "You don't want to lose that feeling. You do anything. You work as hard, maybe harder, to keep that going."

Washington's turnaround this season was one of the most surprising in sports history. After beginning the campaign with a 6-14-1 record, the Capitals went 37-17-7 after Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon as coach on November 22.

"It seems to me everybody bought into playing for each other and sticking with a winning attitude," said Fedorov, who was acquired from Columbus on February 26. "Even the last 11 wins, there was adversity, there were some bad periods we played, some bad bounces we had, but we've been able to stay with it.

"We relied a little bit on our talent and then we relied on our work ethics. And obviously, coaches were there for us and they pointed out the most important things between the periods that we should do."

With the game even at 1-1, Fedorov fired a slap shot from the left faceoff circle during a partial breakaway that sailed over the right shoulder of goaltender Craig Anderson with 4:57 remaining in the second period, putting Washington ahead for good.

"That was a huge goal for them," Weiss said. "It gave them the boost and maybe put us on our heels a little bit."

"He's unbelievable," Boudreau said of Fedorov. "I know those words are thrown around a lot, but the goal he scored was just a rocket. And the stickhandling he did in the third period during the penalty kill, he looked as if he was as rejuvenated as anyone could be."

Semin doubled the lead during a power play early in the third, blasting a shot from the top of the slot past Anderson at 2:21 for his 26th goal of the season and a 3-1 advantage. Nicklas Backstrom recorded his 55th assist on the play, giving him the franchise single-season record among rookies.

"After they scored that third goal, they started backing up a little bit and they played a pretty smart third period," Florida's Kamil Kreps said.

Fleischmann opened the scoring at 7:19 of the first period.

After the Czech fanned on a shot from the bottom of the right circle, the puck glided past a defender. Fleischmann regained possession and, after Anderson missed on a poke-check attempt, slid the puck around the sprawled netminder for his 10th goal.

Kreps drew Florida even at 6:47 with a power-play goal. As the puck was exposed while sitting under Huet's pad near the left goalpost, Kreps banged it into the far side of the net.

The puck caromed out quickly and play continued as no goal was signaled. But after a video review, replay officials awarded Kreps his eighth goal of the campaign, which knotted the game at 1-1.

Huet, who made 25 saves, entered the game with a 10-2-0 record, a 1.69 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage since joining the Capitals from Montreal at the trade deadline on February 26. He has allowed only 10 even-strength goals in his 13 games with Washington.

Huet's nine-game winning streak is the longest by a Capitals goaltender since Pete Peeters also won nine in a row from January 28-March 3, 1987. The Frenchman, however, will be glad to have a few days off before going for a 10th straight victory.

"I think that's good for us right now," Huet said. "Some guys need to rest a little bit. We can work on some things before we start the playoffs and make sure we're on the same page on some other things. We have some little injuries, so it's going to be good for everybody."

Anderson stopped 35 shots for Florida, which finished with a 38-35-9 record and missed the playoffs for the seventh straight campaign.








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    FLORIDA 0 1 0 1
    WASHINGTON 1 1 1 3 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: WAS - TOMAS FLEISCHMANN 10 (BROOKS LAICH) 7:19
    2ND PRD: FLA - (PP) KAMIL KREPS 8 (UNASSISTED) 6:46
    WAS - SERGEI FEDOROV 11 (ALEXANDER SEMIN, MIKE GREEN) 16:03
    3RD PRD: WAS - (PP) ALEXANDER SEMIN 26 (NICKLAS BACKSTROM,

    Apr 5 9:28 PM


  • NHL
    FLORIDA 1
    WASHINGTON 3
    3RD PRD: WAS - (PP) ALEXANDER SEMIN 26 (NICKLAS BACKSTROM, SERGEI
    FEDOROV) 2:21

    Panthers 1, Capitals 3  3rd - 17:39Apr 5 9:01 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    FLORIDA 0 1 1
    WASHINGTON 1 1 2 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: WAS - TOMAS FLEISCHMANN 10 (BROOKS LAICH) 7:19
    2ND PRD: FLA - (PP) KAMIL KREPS 8 (UNASSISTED) 6:46
    WAS - SERGEI FEDOROV 11 (ALEXANDER SEMIN, MIKE GREEN) 16:03
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --

    Apr 5 8:37 PM


  • NHL
    FLORIDA 1
    WASHINGTON 2
    2ND PRD: WAS - SERGEI FEDOROV 11 (ALEXANDER SEMIN, MIKE GREEN) 16:03

    Panthers 1, Capitals 2  2nd - 3:57Apr 5 8:32 PM


  • NHL
    FLORIDA 1
    WASHINGTON 1
    2ND PRD: FLA - (PP) KAMIL KREPS 8 (UNASSISTED) 6:46

    Panthers 1, Capitals 1  2nd - 13:14Apr 5 8:15 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    FLORIDA 0 0
    WASHINGTON 1 1 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: WAS - TOMAS FLEISCHMANN 10 (BROOKS LAICH) 7:19
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    FLA 12 12
    WAS 17 17
    GOALIES: FLA - CRAIG ANDERSON
    WAS - CRIST

    Apr 5 7:43 PM


  • NHL
    FLORIDA 0
    WASHINGTON 1
    1ST PRD: WAS - TOMAS FLEISCHMANN 10 (BROOKS LAICH) 7:19

    Panthers 0, Capitals 1  1st - 12:41Apr 5 7:21 PM
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    roots
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