SUNRISE, Fla. – Of the 18,371 fans (or maybe slightly fewer) who showed up at BankAtlantic Center on Saturday night, at least those rooting for the Panthers got to see a 1-0 victory. Other than that, the game wasn’t really worth the price of admission, and Capitals players admitted as much afterward.
“It’s the 82nd game. I think, to be honest, we’re looking ahead,” veteran winger Mike Knuble said. “At times we worked hard and at times we were sloppy.”
This game had no bearing on the Caps’ playoff seeding, and Knuble, Karl Alzner and others said they were checking the out-of-town scores for Carolina-Tampa Bay between periods and throughout the game. The Hurricanes’ loss means Washington will face the Rangers – something the Caps were thinking about even while playing the Panthers.
“I think we were a little bit too ready for that and focusing too much for that, maybe,” center Marcus Johansson said. “It feels good to get this started now. We’ve been looking forward to it for a while now, so it’s gonna be fun.”
Saturday night’s game was an exercise is going through the motions for both teams. Neither put together much sustained offense, though the Panthers did manage to score on Michal Neuvirth with a flukey goal in the third period off the stick of Bill Thomas.
Otherwise Neuvirth was good, and his teammates feel good about him leading them into the playoffs.
“He got some good work in today, some good shots, had to work a little bit, make some good saves,” Knuble said. “That was important for him moving forward.”
With eyes toward the playoffs, though, Bruce Boudreau didn’t seem too worried about his team essentially mailing this one in.
“We didn’t have a lot of polish; I thought we were very, very sloppy today and I think that comes with the mindset of let’s get this over with,” he said. “It’s over, so there’s no reason for that to happen anymore.”