- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 11, 2010

With both the Capitals and Bruins locked into their playoff seedings, there wasn’t a lot for the two teams to play for standings-wise Sunday afternoon as Washington wrapped up its best regular-season in club history.

But for Alexander Ovechkin, it was his last chance to make a bid for the league’s goal-scoring and points title as the NHL’s regular-season slate concluded on Sunday — and also make a last-ditch effort to earn Hart Trophy votes for the league’s MVP with the game on national television.

Heading into the contest, Ovechkin needed three points to win the Art Ross trophy for most points, and also looked to break the tie atop the goal-scoring race with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.

However, despite some good opportunities for goals — and assists — the Caps’ captain was shut out by Bruins netminder Tim Thomas, leaving him short of the points and goals title by the day’s end.

Alexander Semin did hit a personal milestone in the contest, scoring his 40th goal of the season, the first time he has hit the mark. The Bruins took a 4-3 win in a shootout, but afterwards the Caps were more content to get ready for the postseason.

Having clinched a playoff spot a month ago, the Capitals can now turn their attention to the Montreal Canadiens, who dropped to eighth seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to Philadelphia’s 2-1 shootout win over the Rangers Sunday.

“Well, we’re really glad [the regular season] is over,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’ve known for a long time that we were going to be in the playoffs. As much as you want to push them, they are looking forward to a different kind of challenge.”

The game got off to a fast start, with Semin scoring his 40th goal of the season with a shot from the boards that eluded Thomas just 2:23 into the contest.

Then Jason Chimera and Thomas got involved in a scrap just :20 after Semin’s tally, as Chimera ran into Thomas and was called for goaltender interference, but Thomas punched back and started a small meele behind the Bruins net.

However, despite sitting many stars with their sixth seed sewn up Saturday, Michael Ryder beat Washington’s starting netminder by taking a feed off Milan Lucic from behind the net and tying the game up with 5:29 gone in the frame.

The Capitals had a couple of chances to go ahead, but after a couple of near misses, Ovechkin was called for high-sticking. On the ensuing power-play, Dennis Wideman intercepted a Tom Poti clear and fed Ryder for his second goal of the period with 5:05 left in the frame.

The Boston lead was short-lived, however, as Eric Belanger scored off his own rebound just :19 after Ryder’s goal.

Ovechkin got his best chance of the second with just over four minutes gone, as he had a good luck, but couldn’t beat Thomas for his 51st goal of the season.

The Caps got a big scare when Semin appeared to be hurt on a collision late in the second period when he collided with Johnny Boychuk and fell awkwardly, and left the ice gingerly. However, he returned to the ice before the end of the period.

Ovechkin had a good scoring chance early in the third when he broke in one-on-one on Boychuk, but Thomas came up with the save to keep him off the scoresheet.

Washington then went ahead with 10:01 left to play as Mike Green’s shot from the point was deflected not only by a Bruins defender, but also Mike Knuble for his 29th goal of the campaign.

However, Boston tied the game up with 4:18 left when Marco Sturm rifled a pass past Varlamov for the equalizer, and despite some late chances, the two teams earned a point and moved into overtime for the second time in six days.

Ovechkin had a good chance in overtime, slipping past Miroslav Satan and putting a shot on net, but Thomas made the save.HG

Green also blocked a Boychuk shot in the extra session, with the two teams closing out the regular season with a shootout.

Ryder opened the shootout with a miss, then Boyd Gordon missed the net with his first chance. David Krejci beat Varlamov with Boston’s second chance, but Thomas stuffed Matt Bradley’s chance. Satan then ended the game with Boston’s second goal, ending the regular season on a bit of a sour note.

The Capitals finish with a club-record 121 points and a 54-15-13 mark, and also a 30-5-6 record at home, both best in the league. Washington is just the third team since the 1977-78 Canadiens to complete a regular season with more than 120 points, and the most in the league since the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings got 124.

Following the Flyers’ win later Sunday afternoon, Washington now will face the Canadiens in the playoffs for the first time in the team’s history. Game 1 will be at Verizon Center later this week, likely Thursday night.

For Ovechkin, his 109 points leave him second in the points race, three points behind Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, who wins his first Art Ross Trophy barring a record performance later this afternoon. Ovechkin also fell behind Sidney Crosby in the ‘Rocket’ Richard race, who scored his 50th and 51st goal on Long Island.

Ovechkin is one of the contenders for his third straight Hart Trophy, but he faces some tough competition this season, with Crosby, Sedin and Buffalo’s Ryan Miller also making strong cases for the award. The voting is done before the playoffs begin Wednesday, so Ovechkin will have to wait until June to find out if his regular-season performance was good enough to garner the honor.

But for the Capitals, while the individual honors and team records are nice, the trophy that the team is shooting for this season will be determined over the course of the next four rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs as the book closes on the regular season.

“It’s always nice to finish the season in first place,” Ovechkin said afterwards. “I think we’ll make a bigger stake. Right now, it’s most important thing is what is coming and everybody healthy, everybody feel good.”

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