Capitals clinch: Washington wraps up top spot in Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference

OTTAWA, Ontario — Alex Ovechkin scored his 43rd goal and the Washington Capitals clinched the Metropolitan Division and the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

Mike Richards, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, with an empty net, also scored for the Capitals. Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots.

Chris Wideman and Mika Zibanejad scored for the Senators. Craig Anderson made 18 saves.

The loss will likely fuel the controversy started by owner Eugene Melnyk earlier in the morning when he told reporters changes could be expected during the offseason. Melnyk called the season, “just a total roller coaster of hope and despair.”

The Senators also lost defenseman 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 because of a lower-body injury.

Trailing 3-1, the Senators’ best opportunity in the third came on the power play, but Ottawa has struggled with the man advantage – going 0-for-27 through 10 games and 0 for 4 on Tuesday.

Zibanejad gave life to the crowd, 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.

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.

The Senators fell behind by three goals in the first period.

Washington opened the scoring at 2:32 after a couple of 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 because of 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.

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