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Posted at 12:11 AM ET, 04/06/2012

Capitals took an unexpected route, but clinch fifth straight playoff berth

The Capitals’ season might not have gone according to the script laid out for them back during training camp. Now that they’ve secured a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive year with a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers all that matters is they did.

From my game story for the hard-copy edition, which you can read in its entirety here.

They might have made the route a little more difficult than in years past — the trend continued Thursday night, with starting goaltender Michal Neuvirth leaving the game in the second period with an apparent leg injury. But all that matters is the destination.
“Not everything’s going to go your way the entire year,” said Brooks Laich, whose tally in the second period proved to be the game-winner. “I came to camp expecting to be a scoring winger and end up being an assignment center for most of the season. Things are going to change through the course of the season. You have to accept that. You accept the highs, you accept the lows. . . . We’re just a group of guys that enjoys playing together and we’ll ride this wave.”

Mike Wise was in attendance Thursday night and he took a look at how the Capitals kept the faith in themselves to reach this point. Check out his full column here.

At the euphoric end, Alexander Semin’s legs burned from being on the ice so long. After he had gathered the puck behind the goal and began shuffling toward the net, after he had flicked his backhander past former teammate Jose Theodore for the clinching goal — after the loudest gathering at Verizon Center in easily a year unleashed a season of frustration and fury — Semin collapsed behind the net.
It was not pretty. It certainly was not perfect. But they got there. Somehow, in this maddening Washington Capitals season where the only consistent facet of their game became their inconsistency, they delivered a postseason berth after all.
“We had to grind our way in,” Brooks Laich, the game’s No. 1 star said after the Caps held on to beat Florida, 4-2, on Thursday night and, with help from Philadelphia, clinch their fifth straight berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

By  |  12:11 AM ET, 04/06/2012

 
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