Capitals clinch Metro title; Canadiens’ playoff hopes look dim

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Apparently a Stanley Cup hangover won’t always stop you from winning your division.

The Washington Capitals locked up the Metropolitan Division title on Thursday after slipping by the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 2-1.

As hard as the Canadiens fought on Thursday, they likely feel deflated from losing in regulation. With 94 points in 81 games played, the Habs would now max out at 96 if they won their last game. They can only grab the second and final wild-card spot, as current top wild-card team Carolina ended its lengthy playoff drought by reaching 97 points. The only team the Canadiens can leapfrog is now the Columbus Blue Jackets, and that feels like a longshot, as Columbus would need to lose both of its remaining games (against the lowly Rangers and Senators).

Both goalies and defenses were sharp in this tight-checking game, so it came down to who could capitalize on more mistakes. That ended up being the Capitals, as Andre Burakovsky created some havoc before setting up Nic Dowd for the game-winner a little less than three minutes into the second period.

Dowd isn’t the type of player you think of when you consider one of the Capitals’ strengths: making the most of their shots. They have the sort of shooting talent that can overcome sometimes-middling possession stats, and that’s something you couldn’t always say for the Canadiens. Montreal did a lot more right than expected this season, but if this run is coming to an end — and it sure looks like it’s coming to an end — then it might be about their firepower just being a little less potent. That was certainly the case against the Capitals, at least.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.