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“I think division games are the most important games you’re going to play,” winger Eric Fehr said. “Obviously, if we’re successful in our division we’re going to be in a playoff spot, so we know how important they are, and we’ve got to win them.”

After Tuesday’s victory at the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps’ first regulation victory against one of the conference’s elite teams, Perreault said, “It feels like we can beat anybody.” That will be tested in the final six games, five of which are against teams currently in playoff positioning.

But all along coach Adam Oates and his players knew the division was within reach, even when they were 14th in the conference.

“A long time ago, when we were seven, eight points out, we still knew that the division was going to be our key to get into the playoffs,” Brouwer said. “We know the magnitude of every game that we play within our division.”

That includes these games against the Hurricanes and Lightning, even if they’re not chances to prove anything to the rest of the NHL. They are opportunities to pick up points and move closer to hanging a fifth Southeast Division champions banner.

“We’re in a good position now,” Fehr said. “We’ve earned it, we’ve fought for it and we don’t want to give that up.”

The playoffs are the playoffs, even if the Caps get in the Southeasy way.