Capitals come up empty in regular season finale against Panthers


Final score: Florida Panthers 2, Washington Capitals 0

How it happened: Despite playing without some of their more important players, the Capitals were the aggressors in the first period on Sunday night. But the Capitals appeared to take a bit off the gas in the second and third period as the playoffs came into focus. The Panthers got things started with a shorthanded goal in the second period after the Capitals were unable to clear the puck out of their own zone.

After Phillipp Grubauer replaced Holtby for the third period, Denis Malgin found the back of the net on a power-play to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. Panthers' goalie James Reimer finished with a 29-save shutout.

What it means: Nothing. The Capitals are headed to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, beginning on Thursday. The Capitals rested T.J. Oshiem Justin Williams, Matt Niskanen and a few others on Sunday in order to be healthy for the playoffs.



Panthers goal: Derek MacKenzie got things started in a penalty kill late in the second period. Following a broken play, Colton Sceviour found MacKenzie around the crease, who was able to put it past Braden Holtby at 15:47 of the second period. 1-0 Panthers.

Panthers goal: The Capitals' committed just two penalties all game, but the first one was costly. A Tom Wilson interference penalty gave the Panthers the man=advantage midway through the third period. Denis Malgin, got a nice feed from Reilly Smith, and buried past Grubauer. 2-0 Panthers.


Look ahead: The regular season is over. The Toronto Maple Leafs are up next, with the Capitals hosting Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday, April 12.

3 Stars of the Game:

1. Evgeni Kuznetsov: The Russian forward is arguably the team's most important player as the playoffs get started. The enigmatic star is a physical force who elevates the level of his line when he;s on the ice. He was all over the ice on Sunday night, finishing with three shots, one hit and was 3-for-3 on the faceoff.

2. Garrett Mitchell: The Hershey Bears captain got called up for the Capitals final game of the season, making his NHL debut. Mitchell did solid work on the fourth line, registering a hit and skating with purpose and precision. This game was far from "meaningless" for guys like Mitchell.

3. Braden Holtby: Holtby played just two periods in the season finale. Despite the shorthanded goal, in which the Caps had ample opportunities to clear the puck, Holtby had a good dress rehearsal for the playoffs with 15 saves on 16 shots.