The Capitals were quick to try to push the memory of their ugly 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night behind them and focus on the future. The defeat cost them some control over that future, though, and makes their margin for error extremely thin heading into the final five games of the season.
While Washington isn’t out of the playoff race — despite all of the comparisons of the meeting with Buffalo to Game 7 of a postseason series — the picture grows dicier each time it leaves a point on the table.
In all likelihood, the Capitals may need eight of the 10 possible points that remain.
“Five games left and by the looks of it, we’re probably going to have to win, I’d say, at least four of them, which is a tough feat to do against some of the teams we’re playing,” Karl Alzner said. “We’re going to have to be a desperate hockey team, every single second of every game. You see us get desperate in the third period a lot this year. It’s going to start right from the drop of the puck. And I just hope we can carry it out for the full 60 minutes.”
Washington resides in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 84 points but holds tiebreakers against the eighth-place Sabres (86 points) and seventh-place Senators (88 points). All three teams have five games remaining.
Chances of hanging a fifth consecutive Southeast Division championship banner are dimming for the Capitals, barring a complete collapse by the Florida Panthers.
After a 3-2 shootout win over Montreal on Tuesday night, Florida (89 points) holds a five-point lead on the Capitals and still has a game in hand.
The Panthers’ remaining games: Thursday at Minnesota; Friday at Columbus; Sunday at Detroit; April 3 vs. Winnipeg; April 5 at Washington; April 7 vs. Carolina.
To guarantee at least the eighth spot, Capitals would need to finish even in points with Ottawa (if the Senators would slide backwards) or Buffalo because they would then win out by virtue of the regulation- and overtime-wins tiebreaker. Tuesday’s loss means that Washington requires two more points more than whatever the Sabres gain in their final games.
“Now we’re going to start needing a little bit of help and that’s kind of the first time we’ve been in this position,” Mike Knuble said. “You’ve got to set a target of trying to get four out of these five and finish extremely strong. And then even if you do that and hold up that end of the bargain, you’ve got to wait for a little bit of help somewhere else.”
Here is Washington’s remaining schedule : Thursday at Boston; Saturday vs. Montreal; Monday at Tampa Bay; April 5 vs. Florida; April 7 at N.Y. Rangers
Buffalo’s remaining schedule: Friday vs. Pittsburgh; Saturday at Toronto; April 3 vs Toronto; April 5 at Philadelphia; April 7 at Boston
Ottawa’s remaining schedule : Saturday at Philadelphia; Sunday at N.Y. Islanders; April 3 vs. Carolina; April 5 vs. Boston; April 7 at New Jersey
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