WASHINGTON – For the fourth year in a row, the Capitals are Metropolitan Division champions. Washington clinched the division title on Thursday in a narrow 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens both locking their spot in first place and likely providing the death knell for Montreal’s playoff hopes.
The Caps faced a potential winner-take-all matchup on Saturday against the second place New York Islanders, but the win over the Canadiens, means there will be nothing on the line for Washington in the final game of the season.
Though not officially eliminated, the Canadiens' playoff hopes are on life support. Montreal sits tied with Columbus for the final wild card spot, but the Blue Jackets hold the tie-breaker and have two games remaining in the season. The Canadiens only have one.
Here are three reasons the Caps won.
Washington’s first goal was set up by a great play from Carl Hagelin to force the turnover off defenseman Christian Folin. Folin went to the corner to retrieve the puck, but felt the pressure from Hagelin who closed off the wall and cut off the pass. Turnovers are so devastating because it draws the opposition out of position as the players assume the puck is headed up ice. That left Lars Eller all alone in front of the net. Hagelin passed to Brett Connolly who passed to Lars Eller for the goal.
On the second goal, Paul Byron was at the blue line and ready to break the puck out of the defensive zone, but Andre Burakovsky came streaking in to steal the puck away. Nic Dowd was open in the high slot and he fired a shot past Carey Price to give Washington the 2-1 lead.
Lars Eller can’t stop scoring against Montreal
Elller loves playing against his former team. He scored the Caps’ first goal of the game and now has at least one goal in each game against the Canadiens this season. Eller has 13 goals in 2018-19 and 3 of them have come against Montreal.
Alex Ovechkin is the best goal-scorer in the game, but even he can’t score every night. Depth production is so critical to a team’s success and is often overlooked, but Washington was not winning this game on Thursday without contributions from the third and fourth lines.
Washington's third line of Hagelin, Eller, Connolly continued its absurd possession dominance finishing the game with a 77.78-percent Corsi-For percentage. They also provided the first goal of the game. The fourth line provided the second goal on a night in which Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana were held without a point.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- Prospect Report: Chase Priskie is heading to free agency and it's nobody's fault
- Caps Mailbag: Looking at the playoff lineup
- NHL Power Rankings: Where the Caps stand at the end of the season