- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

SUNRISE, Fla. | If the Washington Capitals were hoping for a strong effort in their final game before the postseason, it didn’t happen.

Steve Eminger scored his first goal against his former teammates, and David Booth had a five-point night as the Florida Panthers defeated the Caps 7-4 on Saturday night at BankAtlantic Center.

Washington was already locked into the No. 2 seed for the forthcoming Eastern Conference playoffs. Shortly after Saturday’s contest ended, the Caps found out they will face the New York Rangers in the first round when the Montreal Canadiens lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“There wasn’t a lot of positives we can take out of that game,” defenseman Brian Pothier said. “We just have to prepare for two really good practices and get ready for [the Rangers].”

With nothing to play for, the Caps put forth a ragged defensive effort. Jose Theodore yielded six goals on 41 shots after an assortment of odd-man rushes and a few misses the Caps netminder would like to have back.

“I think it was a combination [of Theodore and the defense],” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I mean, the two-on-ones in the third period… I don’t know. I’ll have to watch it on the video, but there were an awful lot of breakdowns everywhere.”

Alexander Semin had two goals and an assist for the Caps, who finished the season with a franchise-best 108 points. Their 50 wins tied a team record set in the 1985-86 campaign.

Alex Ovechkin tied the contest at 4-4 at 13:09 of the final period with his 56th of the season, but two goals in eight seconds sank the Caps.

Eminger broke in on Theodore, and instead of passing during a two-on-one, he jammed the puck between the goaltender and the near post at 15:32. Before the fans were done celebrating, Michal Frolik made it a two-goal lead. Theodore stopped Booth’s shot from the left circle, but the rebound went right to Frolik.

“Every time we lose, I am disappointed,” Boudreau said. “I just have a hard time because, never being able to stick in the NHL, I know how much I would have given to play. Defensively we were so out of whack, but it is over and I’m not going to dwell on this one.”

Brooks Laich put the Caps on the board first with his 23rd of the season. Florida’s Keith Ballard tried to chip the puck out of his own zone, but Semin knocked it down with his body along the right wall and sent a pass to Laich alone in the high slot.

Booth knotted the score at 1-1 at 15:50 of the first with his 30th tally. Theodore directed Bryan McCabe’s point shot into the left corner, but Booth went to retrieve it and snapped a shot from a sharp angle along the wall. The shot hit Keith Aucoin’s skate and glanced off the inside of Theodore’s right foot.

Booth had a role in both of Florida’s second-period goals. Seven seconds after he came out of the penalty box, Radek Dvorak gave the Panthers the lead at 8:20 of the middle period. Booth knocked down a shot from the right point by Mike Green just as a Caps power play was expiring. Dvorak broke in alone before winding up and ripping a slap shot through Theodore from between the hash marks.

After Green went to the box, the Panthers added a power-play goal to make it 3-1. Nicklas Backstrom was denied a shot attempt on a short-handed rush, and then ensuing odd-man break was prosperous for Florida. Booth carried the puck along the right wall before dropping a pass back to McCabe, who connected at 11:58.

Semin added the next two markers to even the score - one with 4:07 left in the second and another, his 34th of the year, 3:27 in the final period.

“Obviously, that wasn’t the game we wanted to play, but we had a good season,” forward Matt Bradley said. “We’ll remember the good parts and move on from tonight.”

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