Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he doesn’t care about being the top seed in the playoffs. He just wants to be invited to that party.
The invitation will have to wait. The Caps took care of their business with a 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Newark in which Michal Neuvirth picked up his fourth shutout of the season, but Carolina didn’t cooperate. The Hurricanes tied up their game with the Islanders in the third and won in overtime. Washington needed a regulation loss by the Hurricanes to clinch a playoff spot.
But it’s more of a formality than anything else and could happen well before the Caps return to the ice, Tuesday at the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers.
Friday night’s victory was far from pretty but it was still the Caps’ 10th in their past 11 games. They managed just 12 shots, by far a season low. But three of those shots – one from past the circles by Jeff Schultz, one in the crease by Mike Knuble and another from the veteran on a high-riser – beat Martin Brodeur, and it was more than enough.
That’s because Michal Neuvirth tallied his fourth shutout of the season, stopping all 33 shots the Devils threw his way. In doing so he and the Caps dealt New Jersey another blow as Jacques Lemaire’s late-charging team tries to finish off an improbable playoff run.
Now the Devils will likely have to pick up at least 20 points in their final 11 games to put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. The Caps are almost there now.