WASHINGTON (AP) - It came right down to the final moment of the final regular-season game for the Tampa Bay Lightning to secure home-ice advantage against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.
“Let’s not kid ourselves: We still have to go in and play. It doesn’t matter where you play - the better team’s going to win the game - but it is nice to go home, sleep in your own bed, play in front of your home fans,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “You work so hard for 82 games, and it comes down to the last shot of the game in a shootout to attain that goal.”
Matthew Carle scored the only goal, Anders Lindback sealed his first shutout of the season by stopping attempts by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the tiebreaker, and the Lightning edged the Washington Capitals 1-0 in the teams’ regular-season finale on Sunday.
The victory clinched second place in the Atlantic Division for Tampa Bay, which finished with 101 points, one more than Montreal.
Tampa Bay will host Montreal in Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Canadiens were idle Sunday, after closing their regular season with a 1-0 overtime victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
“You hear stories from when they went on their run,” Carle said, “and the building sounds like it gets pretty rowdy.”
“It’s weird,” Ovechkin said. “It’s kind of a hard moment to realize you’re not going to be in the playoffs and you’re not going to fight for the Stanley Cup.”
His between-the-legs attempt in the shootout was blocked by Lindback, and Ovechkin wound up 2 for 16 in tiebreakers this season. The Capitals played in an NHL-record 21 shootouts this season, going 10-11 in those games.
“A lot of ‘em,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates, who has one year left on his contract. “There’s a lot of points there.”
Washington finished with 90 points, three fewer than Detroit, which got the last wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Asked about recent speculation about his job status, Oates said: “For me, you know what? All you can really do, all I focused on, is doing my job. Doing the best I can. And don’t worry about it.”
Washington already had been eliminated but won four games in a row before Sunday.