WASHINGTON — Fourth-liner Tom Wilson atoned for two penalties by scoring the winning goal early in the third period as the Washington Capitals clinched the Presidents’ Trophy by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 Monday night.
The Capitals needed only a point to clinch the NHL’s best record this season and wrapped up home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs with seven games left. Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie also scored and Nicklas Backstrom added an empty-netter for Washington, which has an NHL-leading 113 points.
Goaltender Braden Holtby made 21 saves to earn his 46th win, two shy of Martin Brodeur’s single-season record.
The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy for the second time in franchise history. They still have a handful of players left from the group that won it in 2009-10.
Washington lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round in 2010, and Backstrom said Monday morning that the Presidents’ Trophy doesn’t mean anything. But home-ice advantage has its value for a team that is 29-7-2 at Verizon Center.
Home was kind to the Capitals against the Blue Jackets on a night they didn’t have their best for 60 minutes.
After withstanding an early penalty kill with Wilson in the box for tripping, Washington took a 1-0 lead 6:30 into the first period when Williams collected the puck off a rebound of John Carlson‘s shot and tapped it into an open net. Williams’ 22nd of the season was the Capitals’ first 5-on-5 goal in 184:10, dating to their March 22 game in Ottawa.
The lead lasted less than 12 minutes. Washington’s Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over on a heads-up play by Rene Bourque, and Atkinson took advantage of the gift by rifling a shot past Holtby 18:06 into the first.
After a second period without a goal, Wilson made the most of his time in the offensive zone 3:46 into the third. After a shot by Daniel Winnik, Mike Richards got the puck to Wilson, who finished for his seventh goal of the season.
In his return to the lineup after missing two games with an illness, Oshie added the insurance goal on the power play 14:26 into the third, deflecting Matt Niskanen‘s point shot.