The Capitals clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 4-2 victory over the Senators Tuesday night.
“It’s huge,” said Alex Ovechkin. “I think we deserve how we play all year to clinch it. Right now, 10 games left, I think we just have to play more simple and be ready for the playoffs.”
Washington jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the 14-minute mark of the first period and, despite a valiant effort, the Senators were no match for the league-leading Capitals (52-15-5).
``We didn't really give ourselves a chance to win this game even though we battled back and got one late again, but that's not how you win games in this league,'' said Senators captain Erik Karlsson. ``They showed that they were a better team than us and it's as simple as that.''
The loss comes on the heels of a promise for change from owner Eugene Melnyk, who earlier in the day called the season, ``just a total roller coaster of hope and despair.''
While players said Melnyk's comments weren't a distraction prior to the game, one can't help but think it impacted the players, especially considering Melnyk's criticism of head coach Dave Cameron.
``I don't think anyone was personally called out,'' said Karlsson. ``I haven't seen the full comments, but I think it's an overall. Even with those comments made I think he includes himself in there. He's an owner that cares and he knows that he needs to do something different and step it up too. I don't think it was directed to any specific person at all whether it was players, coaches or management.''
The Senators also lost defenceman Dion Phaneuf as he took a hit from Brooks Orpik in the second period. Phaneuf managed to play a few more shifts, but did not return for the third period due to a lower-body injury. Phaneuf did not travel with the team and will not play against the Islanders Wednesday night. Fredrik Claesson will be called up from Binghamton.
Trailing 3-1, the Senators best opportunity in the third came on the power play, but Ottawa has been terrible with the man advantage -- going 0-for-27 through 10 games and 0 for 4 on Tuesday.
``We're getting some looks and we're doing some good things, but it's not enough,'' said Zibanejad. ``It's not enough when you don't win games. We just need to get better.''
Zibanejad gave life to the 19,313 on hand, scoring at 18:27 from a sharp angle as the puck went in off Holtby. But the Senators were unable to complete the comeback and Oshie iced the game with an empty-net goal.
The Capitals were pleased with how they started the game, but know they need to be better for 60 minutes.
``Obviously we had a very good start,'' said Ovechkin. ``Scored three goals right away and didn't give them anything, but we just have to continue to play all three periods like that. I think in the second we felt a little bit loose and tried to play fancy hockey and you can see it's not going to work like that.''
Washington led 3-0 before the Senators got on board midway through the second as Wideman managed to get a shot through traffic to beat Holtby.
Washington opened the scoring at 2:32 after a couple bad defensive plays left Richards all alone out front. Ovechkin then scored his 43rd of the season on the power play midway through the period after taking a great pass from Marcus Johansson to bury it past Anderson. Just over two minutes later Backstrom made it 3-0.
The Senators best opportunity to get back in the game came with a 1:03 two-man advantage late in the period, but they were unable to create any great chances.
Notes: Ottawa RW Chris Neil was a late scratch due to illness. Ryan Dzingel played in his place. Mark Stone wore an 'A' in Neil's absence. Washington C Michael Latta, RW Stanislav Galiev and D Nate Schmidt were healthy scratches.