The Washington Capitals can’t clinch the playoffs Monday night, but they can put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat with a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With three games left in Washington and the ninth place Buffalo Sabres’ schedules, Washington has a two-point lead and control over the tiebreaker. That means if Washington wins two of their remaining contests, they will get into the postseason regardless of what Buffalo does. If the Capitals beat Tampa Bay on Monday, then Buffalo will need to come away with five points in their final three games just to stand a chance of making the playoffs.
Beyond that, a win today would keep the pressure on the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division race. Although it’s a long shot at this point, if Washington can keep winning and get some help, it is possible for them to end up with the third seed over the Panthers. It helps that Washington will get a chance to gain some ground on Thursday in a matchup against Florida.
Aside from the playoff implications, this will also be the second match in Nicklas Backstrom’s comeback attempt. He returned on Saturday after missing almost three months due to a concussion and ended up logging 19:40 minutes.
“I can’t be worried about getting hit again, and that’s what I did from the start and it felt all right, but I can be a little bit better,” Backstrom said. “My lungs were a little tired there after a while.”
These next three contests should prove invaluable to Backstrom as he shakes off the rust and gets ready to compete in the playoffs, should the Capitals make it.
On the Lightning side of things, the focus won’t be on them so much as it will be on Steven Stamkos. Tampa Bay can’t make the playoffs, but Stamkos is four goals away from 60 with four games left in their schedule. Given how hot Stamkos has been lately, it’s certainly possible that he’ll be the first player since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08 to reach that mark.
With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.
Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.
Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut
“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”
Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.
Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.
DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.
Blashill says DeKeyser has a bruise, not a break. Will know more tomorrow, but probably day-to-day