Caps accomplish another goal: Win Metro Division

Chris Russell
April 05, 2019 - 9:06 am

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals put a bow on the NHL's Metropolitan Division Thursday night at Capital One Arena, beating a desperate Montreal Canadiens team, 2-1.

Washington upped their points tally to 104 on the season and while the journey has been far from easy, a fourth consecutive division title is at hand.

It's the second time in the Alex Ovechkin era the Caps have secured four straight division championships. Since 1926-27, only the Boston Bruins have accomplished that feat. The Capitals also become only the third defending Stanley Cup Champion to win their division since 2003-04.

"That was one of our goals going into the season is winning the division. It's nice to get it done. I think we played a good game. We played a real solid third (period), in my opinion, against a real desperate team," defenseman John Carlson told reporters.

The Caps also avoid a Saturday night showdown with former coach Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders, who – despite their win in Florida Thursday – can't catch Washington. New York will need to win in Washington Saturday to secure home-ice in the first round, something the Caps, of course, already have.

The Caps are playing tight hockey for the most part entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a win Thursday night re-enforced how they have to play to climb the mountain again. 

"We were forced to play smart with the puck throughout the third period and not take chances, like you're going to be doing in the playoffs, probably," Lars Eller, one of the goal-scorers for Washington, said. "It wasn't an easy win. It's good to go through that  rather than winning games with three or four, so there's good lessons to be had from that."

The Caps two goals were a direct result of hard work, how most goals are scored over the next two months. Eller's 13th of the season gave the Caps a 1-0 lead after a terrific forecheck by Carl Hagelin and a perfect pass from the corner by Brett Connolly.

After the Capitals gave Montreal life at the end of the first, Nic Dowd gave the Caps the lead for good with his 8th of the season after Andre Burakovsky forced a turnover with good work along the boards.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the win, his 26th game against an Eastern Conference opponent, the most in the NHL. He also improved his career record to 24-3-4 during the month of April.

The Caps won't find out until Saturday who they will play in the first round. As of Friday, it's the Carolina Hurricanes, who clinched a spot in Raleigh on Thursday.

Washington beat the Canes twice last week behind Holtby, completing the season sweep.

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