There’s still hope for the Buffalo Sabres. At the start of the day, the eighth place Washington Capitals had a two-point lead over them and control of the tiebreaker with three games remaining in each team’s schedule. However, the Capitals squandered a chance to put in a nail in the coffin in their 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay Monday night.
After a scoreless first period, Alexander Semin netted his 20th goal of the season to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. However, Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell and Victor Hedman struck back with goals just 25 seconds apart late in the second frame.
With less than five minutes left in the contest, Jason Chimera backhand a rebound past Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson to tie the game. It looked like the match would be decided in overtime and the Washington Capitals would get at least one critical point. Then Steven Stamkos stepped up.
Stamkos scored his 57th goal of the season at 18:57 of the third period and then helped himself to an empty netter with seconds left on the clock.
With three games left in the Lightning’s schedule, it’s entirely possible for Stamkos to become the first 60-goal scorer since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08.
The Buffalo Sabres now have a chance to tie the Washington Capitals in terms of points with a victory over Toronto on Tuesday, but that won’t be good enough as the Capitals control the tiebreaker. The two teams aren’t scheduled to play against each other in the final days of the regular season, so Buffalo needs more help if they are to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Washington can still guarantee itself a playoff spot by winning both of its final two games.