Lightning beat Caps in SO to earn home-ice edge vs. Canadiens
WASHINGTON — The Tampa Bay Lightning wrapped up home-ice advantage for their first-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens by edging the Washington Capitals 1-0 in a shootout in the regular-season finale on Sunday.
Matthew Carle scored the only goal in the tiebreaker.
The victory clinched second place in the Atlantic Division for Tampa Bay, which finished with 101 points, one more than Montreal.
”They really wanted to get over that century mark in points,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said about his players. ”Everybody was genuinely excited for each other. That’s what makes it fun.”
Tampa Bay will host Montreal in Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Canadiens were idle Sunday, after closing their regular season with a 1-0 overtime victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
”It doesn’t matter where you play – the better team’s going to win the game – but it is nice to go home, sleep in your own bed, play in front of your home fans,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. ”You work so hard for 82 games, and it comes down to the last shot of the game in a shootout to attain that goal.”
Alex Ovechkin finished with an NHL-leading 51 goals, but the Capitals failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, his second season in the league.
Ovechkin’s between-the-legs attempt in the shootout was stopped by Anders Lindback, who also prevented Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov from scoring. It was Lindback’s third career shutout, first this season.
Ovechkin tied Backstrom for the team lead in points with 79.
The shootout was Washington’s NHL-record 21st of the season. The Capitals were 10-11 in those games; Ovechkin went 2 for 16 in shootouts.
Washington already had been eliminated but won four games in a row before Sunday.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, heads into the postseason on a four-game winning streak.
While Cooper explained beforehand that he wanted to win to secure the higher playoff seeding, he also knew he needed to rest some injured players such as center Valtteri Filppula and left wing Ondrej Palat.
”We want those guys to be ready for Wednesday. We’re taking every step to make sure that happens,” Cooper said. ”I can’t sit here and say they’re going to play on Wednesday. But they will be better Wednesday than they are today.”
Notes: Cooper said he didn’t think LW Ryan Malone’s DUI and cocaine possession charges would be a distraction to the team. ”Ryan is probably a little embarrassed of what’s gone on. He made a poor decision, getting behind the wheel when he had alcohol in his system,” Cooper said. ”But for me, I’ve watched all the good decisions Ryan Malone’s made in his life, and how charitable he’s been and what a staple he’s been in our community in the years he’s been here. I hope this one instance doesn’t take away from that, because he’s been a class act for us, on and off the ice.” Malone didn’t travel with the team to Washington. His playoff status isn’t known. … Tampa Bay C Tyler Johnson briefly stayed down on the ice in the second period and hunched over as he skated off, but he returned to action. … Lightning F Cody Kunyk played in his first NHL game. … C Peter LeBlanc became the ninth Capitals player to make his regular-season NHL debut during 2013-14.