The Washington Times - March 30, 2012, 05:30AM

BOSTON | Alex Ovechkin had a very simple and direct answer when asked what Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins means.

We’re back on track,” the Washington Capitals captain said, adding that this put pressure on the Buffalo Sabres.


Sure, there’s pressure on Buffalo, the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers not to stumble. The Caps remain in ninth officially and still need help to get in.

But beating the Bruins was a good start to making this all look a heck of a lot less daunting.

It certainly didn’t hurt that the Panthers allowed a tying goal with 30.4 seconds left at the Minnesota Wild and lost in overtime, though Florida still has a game in hand. If it can’t pick up two points Friday at the worst-in-the-NHL Columbus Blue Jackets, the Southeast Division race could come down to next week’s game at Verizon Center.

As for just getting in, the Caps become big Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers fans over the next couple days. The Penguins visit Buffalo on Friday, while the Senators visit Philadelphia on Saturday. Washington fans might need a shower after those two days, but they wind up helping the Caps get into the playoffs, it won’t feel so dirty.

Here’s a look at the race, including number of regulation and overtime wins, which is the first tiebreaker once the season is complete:

Capitals (86 points, 36 ROW)

4 games left

Vs. Canadiens

At Lightning

Vs. Panthers

At Rangers

Panthers (90 points, 31 ROW)

5 games left

At Blue Jackets

At Red Wings

Vs. Jets

At Capitals

Vs. Hurricanes

Senators (88 points, 34 ROW)

5 games left

At Flyers

At Islanders

Vs. Hurricanes

Vs. Bruins

At Devils

Sabres (86 points, 31 ROW)

5 games left

Vs. Penguins

At Maple Leafs

Vs. Maple Leafs

At Flyers

At Bruins