Hur­ri­canes blow­ing in af­ter loss to Is­lan­ders

Wash­ing­ton will get Carolina in the first round of play­offs

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS - By Is­abelle Khur­shudyan

The score on the Cap­i­tal One Arena jum­botron wasn’t nearly as in­ter­est­ing as the ones that would flash on the screen hang­ing from the rafters. The Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals needed 81 games to se­cure the top seed in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Di­vi­sion, so the 82nd one re­sem­bled that of an ex­hi­bi­tion con­test – three reg­u­lars get­ting the night off with noth­ing at stake against the New York Is­lan­ders on Satur­day.

The games that could ac­tu­ally af­fect Wash­ing­ton in the post­sea­son were in Pitts­burgh, Philadel­phia and Ot­tawa; the Cap­i­tals en­tered the evening’s slate of games with three dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties for a firstround play­off op­po­nent. While Wash­ing­ton lost to New York, 3-0, with for­wards Nick­las Back­strom and T.J. Oshie and de­fense­man John Carlson out of the lineup, the team kept on eye on the ac­tion elsewhere in the league.

The Cap­i­tals fin­ished their sea­son with 104 points,, and a night that started with the Pen­guins, Hur­ri­canes and Blue Jack­ets all as pos­si­ble first-round matchups went down to the wire. Carolina’s win over Philadel­phia along with Pitts­burgh go­ing to over­time with the New York Rangers means Wash­ing­ton will play the Hur­ri­canes to start its de­fense of the Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­onship.

Af­ter the Cap­i­tals clinched a fourth straight di­vi­sion ti­tle on Thurs­day night with a win against the Montreal Cana­di­ens, coach Todd Reirden ap­proached his top-minute play­ers to make col­lec­tive de­ci­sions about whether they should be in the lineup for the fi­nale. Carlson was a nat­u­ral can­di­date for rest af­ter he’s logged the most time on ice on the ros­ter with a ca­reer-high 25:04 per game, and Wash­ing­ton’s top blue­liner fin­ished the sea­son with 13 goals and 57 as­sists for a first 70-point cam­paign. Oshie felt the game off would also save him a day of re­cov­ery on Sun­day, and that would ul­ti­mately help him most in pre­par­ing for the first play­off game.

The three watched the game in the team gym down­stairs, and asked how much he would pay at­ten­tion to the Cap­i­tals ver­sus their pos­si­ble first-round op­po­nent, Back­strom said, “I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to watch our game first and make sure we play a good game, but ob­vi­ously you’ve gotta check the scores to see who we’re go­ing to get.”

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