Capitals aim to finish strong, hang on to first in the East

After months of looking up in the standings at other Eastern Conference contenders, the Capitals finally found themselves alone atop the East on Wednesday.

But now that they finally control the race for the top seed with two regular-season games remaining, Coach Bruce Boudreau said it is important for the Caps to keep going in their season-ending home-and-home series against Florida and hold on to the top spot.

Philadelphia (two points back, two games remaining) Pittsburgh (three points back, two games remaining) and Boston (six points back, three games remaining) could still conceivably catch up, and perhaps more important, the Caps want to keep things rolling into the playoffs.

Even after Washington clinched its fourth straight division title last night in Toronto, these last two games still mean something.

“We can still end up first; we can end up second in the conference or we can end up third in the conference,” Boudreau said. “I think when you’re looking at it, you’ve got two games left and you want to win them so you can be as good as you can be.”

The Caps went 5-0-1 in their last six games of the regular season last year and still lost in the first round of the playoffs, but players said they still value entering the postseason playing their best. They are 4-0-1 in their last five contests, and don’t want to stall against the last-place Panthers before they play the biggest games of the year.

“Going into tonight and Saturday, we want to win both games and go into the playoffs on a little bit of a high,” defenseman John Erskine said. “Things are going our way right now, and it should be a good last couple of games heading into the playoffs.”

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