April 13 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center
Time: 3:00 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: Capitals Radio Network
Tampa Bay Lightning (44-27-9)
Washington Capitals (38-30-13)
The Capitals close the book on a disappointing 2013-14 season on Sunday afternoon when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center. After being mathematically eliminated from attaining a berth in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs last Wednesday night, the Caps have had to play the equivalent of three meaningless exhibition games in April to close out the season.
Washington carries a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s game, matching its longest run of the season. With 38 victories, the Caps already have more wins than they’ve earned in any non-playoff season in franchise history.
Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves to earn his first shutout as a member of the Capitals and Jay Beagle enjoyed the first two-goal game of his NHL career on Friday as the Caps downed the Chicago Blackhawks by a 4-0 score at Verizon Center.
Braden Holtby is likely to be back in goal for Washington for Sunday’s season finale. Holtby will be seeking his 24th win of the season, which would be a single-season career high. In his last seven appearances (six starts), Holtby is 4-2 with a 2.41 GAA and a .931 save pct. He has won 10 of his last 16 starts (10-4-1) while the rest of Washington’s netminding corps has won just eight of its last 23 starts (8-10-6) over the same time span.
With nothing to play for but pride, a few individuals have some milestones within reach on Sunday. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are both a single point shy of 80 on the season, and the two players share the team scoring lead. Joel Ward needs one goal to reach 25 on the season and is one point shy of 50. John Carlson needs just one point to establish a single-season career standard (Carlson currently has 37 points) and Eric Fehr would have a single-season career best with one more assist (Fehr has 18 assists).
Tampa Bay is heading to the Stanley Cup playoffs for just the second time in the last seven seasons. The Bolts made it to within a game of the Stanley Cup final in their last trip to the postseason in 2011, bouncing the Capitals in a four-game sweep in the second round along the way.
Heading into Saturday’s slate of NHL activity, the Lightning owns a one-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division. The Canadiens play the New York Rangers on Saturday night. If the Habs lose that game in regulation, the Bolts will have clinched second place and a home ice berth for the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. But if the Habs win over the Rangers, then Sunday’s game against Washington will hold some meaning for the Lightning. Tampa Bay would need a victory over the Capitals to open the playoffs at home. Either way, the Habs and Bolts will be going head-to-head in the first round of the playoffs.
Tampa Bay carries a three-game winning streak into the District for Sunday’s game. The Lightning is 11-3-2 in its last 16 games.
The Lightning boasts two of the league’s top three rookie scorers in Ondrej Palat (59 points) and Tyler Johnson (50 points). Only Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (63 points) has more points among the league’s first-year players.
Washington won each of the first two meetings between the two teams this season. The Caps came from behind to take a 6-5 shootout decision from the Bolts on Dec. 10 at Verizon Center and Washington eked out a 4-3 win over the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Jan. 9.