The Washington Times - March 27, 2012, 11:33PM

It’s getting late with five games left for the Washington Capitals. Tuesday’s 5-1 defeat to the Buffalo Sabres was one Brooks Laich tried to shake off as “not a devastating” loss.

But the math is getting awful hard, and Mike Knuble and Karl Alzner know that.


Now we’re going to start needing a little bit of help and that’s kind of the first time we’ve been in this position where we’re going to start needing some help, Knuble said. “You’ve got to set a target of trying to get four out of these five and finish extremely strong. And then even if you do that and hold up that end of the bargain, you’ve got to wait for a little bit of help somewhere else.”

The Caps will need help, and they’re still likely going to need to pick up eight points somewhere in these final five games. They visit the Boston Bruins Thursday before hosting the Montreal Canadiens Saturday, then visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday, hosting the Florida Panthers Thursday and visiting the New York Rangers April 7.

They’re now trailing the Southeast Division by five points, and the Panthers have six games to go. Barring a collapse by Florida down the stretch, which would mean probably losing to the Minnesota Wild or the cellar-dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets, the Caps might need to forget about hanging another division title banner.

To get into the playoffs, the Caps (84 points) need to finish at least tied with either the Sabres (86) or the Ottawa Senators (88). Buffalo has two games left against the Toronto Maple Leafs but matchups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.

They have some tough games then,” Laich said. “But we have to win our games and you just focus – it actually becomes very simple. Life right now becomes very simple. You focus on your games and what you can control and you can’t look any further than that.”

The Caps can’t look any further. Four wins, eight points just to probably figure into the playoff picture.

Five games left and by the looks of it, we’re probably going to have to win, I’d say, at least four of them, which is a tough feat to do against some of the teams we’re playing,” Alzner said. “We’re going to have to be a desperate hockey team, every single second of every game. You see us get desperate in the third period a lot this year. It’s going to start right from the drop of the puck. And I just hope we can carry it out for the full 60 minutes.”

Here’s a look at the numbers and the schedules:

Capitals (84 points)

5 games left

At Bruins

Vs. Canadiens

At Lightning

Vs. Panthers

At Rangers

Panthers (89 games)

6 games left

At Wild

At Blue Jackets

At Red Wings

Vs. Jets

At Capitals

Vs. Hurricanes

Senators (88 points)

5 games left

At Flyers

At Islanders

Vs. Hurricanes

Vs. Bruins

At Devils

Sabres (86 points)

5 games left

Vs. Penguins

At Maple Leafs

Vs. Maple Leafs

At Flyers

At Bruins