During part of their pregame ceremonies, the Tampa Bay Lightning flashed a montage of highlights and photos along with a reminder that while they may be eliminated from this year’s playoffs, they didn’t intend on wrapping up their season with a whimper in four final games beginning Monday night against Washington.
“Who said it’s over? There’s always something to play for,” flashed on the screen. “For pride. For each other . . . ”
Tampa Bay proved its point and left the Capitals pondering familiar faults — among them careless turnovers, a failure to crash the net and why they take opponents lightly.
“We didn’t come out the way we needed to and took it for granted that it was a team that wasn’t in the playoffs and we had a chance to make [the postseason],” Karl Alzner said. “We got a little pressure off ourselves from being out of the playoffs to in the playoffs by just having Buffalo lose. With Florida only a few points [away], you start to think about all these things, ‘We win this tonight we’re in third place’ and you get ahead of yourself. We just didn’t come out and pound them like we should have.”
Washington (88 points) remains in control of its playoff hopes despite the 4-2 loss to the Lightning, but the defeat damages the chancesof it capturing the Southeast Division title. Florida (91 points) needs only to claim two points, in any fashion, in its final three games to clinch the division and the third seed in the East.
Washington’s magic number, so to speak, is four. Any combination of four points gained by the Capitals or lost by ninth-place Buffalo, which has 86 points and three games left to play, would secure a postseason berth.
Here are the remaining schedules of the various contenders:
Washington, 88 points, 36 regulation and overtime wins : Thursday vs. Florida; Saturday at N.Y. Rangers
Florida, 91 points, 31 ROW : Tuesday vs. Winnipeg; Thursday at Washington; Saturday vs. Carolina.
Buffalo, 86 points, 31 ROW : Tuesday vs Toronto; Thursday at Philadelphia; Saturday at Boston.