- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2015

As was the case when they qualified for the postseason earlier this week, the Washington Capitals will need a little help elsewhere if they’re to accomplish one of their remaining goals.

A victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday would have allowed the Capitals to secure home-ice advantage through at least the first round of the playoffs. Instead, a 4-2 loss meant they’d have to wait until later that night, after the New York Islanders wrapped up their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, to determine whether they’d open the postseason against the Islanders at home or on the road.

“It’s all on us,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It was in our hands, and now, it’s not.”

The Capitals defeated the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, then found out hours later, as their flight home was winding down, that they had qualified on the heels of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ victory over the Ottawa Senators.

The math is somewhat simple for the Islanders: If they defeat the Blue Jackets, they will open the series at home, taking the No. 2 spot in the Metropolitan Division by one point in the standings.

Should they lose, either in regulation or in overtime, the Capitals will host the first two games at Verizon Center; Washington holds the second tiebreaker, which will be judged on total points earned in the season series.

“Maybe we looked past today’s game, I mean, because we already knew we were going to play the Islanders,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “I didn’t think we really had our best effort tonight, which is kind of disappointing, being our last game going into the playoffs.”

Knowing that they had to win each of their final two regular-season games to have a shot at some form of home-ice advantage, the Capitals turned in one of their most complete games of the season on Wednesday in a 3-0 victory over the Boston Bruins.

For whatever reason, that urgency and focus didn’t translate Saturday afternoon. The New York Rangers scored two goals in the first 15:50 and added a third 2:30 into the second period, then tied the bow on the victory with an empty-netter with less than two minutes to play.

Because of the Islanders’ victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, the Capitals arrived to the arena knowing their opponent — one they have not faced in a playoff series since 1993.

The teams split the season series, with the Capitals winning at home on Nov. 28 and Feb. 21, the latter in a shootout, while the Islanders picked up overtime victories on Nov. 26 and Dec. 29.

Like the Capitals, the Islanders are returning to the postseason a year after sitting out and spending much of their available money in free agency on defensive additions.

Now the two teams will meet in a series that could begin as soon as Wednesday — and, of course, with the location yet to be determined.

“I think we feel comfortable at home and on the road,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Obviously nice to be at home, but it’s not the end of the world.”

• Zac Boyer can be reached at zboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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