WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The Washington Capitals accomplished what they set out to in the final game of the regular season.
They played it without anybody getting hurt.
James Reimer stopped 38 shots for his second shutout in two days, and the Florida Panthers defeated the Capitals 2-0 on Sunday night, snapping Washington’s four-game winning streak in a game with no playoff implications.
“I think we’ve put in the work to prepare for the playoffs,” Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said. “Now it’s fun time.”
With home ice secured throughout the playoffs, the Capitals (55-19-8) rested several players, including T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams.
“It was sort of a non-contact game,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “These Game 82s are sometimes anticlimactic. But we got through it. I don’t think we have any injuries and we go from there.”
Despite Sunday’s loss, Washington rolls into the playoffs having won 10 of 12 games and their second straight Presidents’ Trophy. Unlike last season when they clinched early, the Capitals played meaningful hockey into the final week.
“Last year we still got the wins and all that, but I just think our outlook and our preparation for the playoffs has a little more focus to it,” Trotz said. “We got pushed by good teams right to the end.”
The young Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night, meaning the Leafs (40-27-15) finished as the second wild card in the Eastern Conference and will be Washington’s first-round opponent. The teams have never met in the playoffs. The Capitals won the season series, which included a 4-1 win Tuesday in Toronto.
“It’s going to be a good series,” Washington winger Alex Ovechkin said. “We just have to play them our way and not give them freedom.”
In the finale, Derek MacKenzie scored a short-handed goal midway through the second period, and Denis Malgin added a power-play tally at 9:47 of the third period as the Panthers (35-36-11) finished a disappointing season with back-to-back wins after losing six straight.
“With all we have been through, we will take it,” MacKenzie said of the victory. “I have said all along this is a great group of guys.”
Reimer was solid throughout, one night after making 30 saves to blank the Buffalo Sabres.
The two straight wins aren’t likely to alter Florida interim coach Tom Rowe’s fate as published reports say he won’t be retained. Rowe is 24-27-10 since taking over for Gerard Gallant (11-9-1). After winning the Atlantic Division a year ago, the Panthers finished sixth in the Atlantic Division.
“It is not a good feeling,” Rowe said of missing the playoffs. “It is a very disappointing season obviously. Sometimes you have to take a step backward. I know our fans are very unhappy and deservedly so. We will be back next year. We have a lot of great pieces.”
Rowe said he’ll meet with President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon on Monday.
Holtby stopped 14 of 15 shots before being replaced by Philipp Grubauer to start the third period. Grubauer made five saves and allowed one goal.
Washington had a 19-14 advantage in shots after two periods, but trailed 1-0.
With the Capitals on a power play, MacKenzie picked up a loose puck in his own end, skated up ice and beat Holtby with a wrist shot from the left circle for his sixth goal at 15:37.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Sports Xchange contributed to this report.)