The Washington Capitals have strung together back-to-back wins following a five-game skid, but it won’t be enough to get them in the playoffs.
After being eliminated from contention a day earlier, the Capitals visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Washington (36-30-13) had made the postseason in each of the last six years, but that run came to an end Wednesday night when Detroit and Columbus secured the two wild-card berths in the Eastern Conference.
Five straight losses March 25-April 4 marked the Capitals’ undoing after they had been tied with the Red Wings for the second wild-card spot. They ended the skid with a 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday, then won 4-1 at Central Division-leading St. Louis on Tuesday.
Washington last missed the playoffs in 2007, Alex Ovechkin’s second season in the league.
Ovechkin became the 11th player in league history with five 50-plus goal seasons Tuesday, though this is his first since 2009-10. He also set a franchise record with his 23rd power-play goal and assisted on two goals by Nicklas Backstrom, who has scored four and tallied three assists over his last five games.
Ovechkin has three goals and two assists in four matchups this season with Carolina, but the Hurricanes won three of them to claim the season series for the first time since 2008-09. Washington, though, has won three straight and seven of nine in Carolina, including a 4-2 victory Dec. 20.
The Hurricanes (34-34-11) are assured of missing the postseason for a fifth straight year following Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers. Patrick Dwyer scored as they finished with one goal for the third time in five games.
Carolina let New York score on two of its three power-play opportunities after holding its previous 14 opponents to 2 for 35.
"It’s not fun losing. It’s not good," Jordan Staal said when asked about the mood in the locker room. The Hurricanes were three points out of a playoff spot on Feb. 7 but have since gone 8-13-2.
"We have to just work hard and find a way to get a good feeling in this room and get a win," said Staal, who is without a point in seven straight games for the second time in 2013-14. He entered the season with three such droughts in his career.
Anton Khudobin is expected to be in net Thursday and is undefeated in three starts against Washington – two this season – with a 1.99 goals-against average.
The Hurricanes have notched at least one power-play goal in six straight meetings, scoring seven times on 25 chances. Washington is 5 for 10 during its three-game winning streak in Carolina.