A little more than a month ago, the Washington Capitals departed Winnipeg with four points and a pair of wins in back-to-back games that kept their postseason aspirations afloat.
Tuesday night at Verizon Center they have the opportunity to clinch the Southeast Division title and the third seed in the Eastern Conference and deliver a devastating blow to the Jets’ postseason hopes.
The stakes are clear for Washington, and Tuesday morning after the skate the players were loose and looking forward to an important, emotionally charged game.
“Right now it’s all about us. They know if they win they still going to have a chance, if they lose, [the division race] over for both teams,” Alex Ovechkin said. “We going to be in playoffs and I don’t know if they going to have a chance to be in the playoffs. We just have to be concentrate, be focus, play our game, don’t make bad decisions and stupid decisions.”
The Capitals can clinch the Southeast Division with a regulation or overtime win against Winnipeg Tuesday; any other outcome leaves more to chance.
A shootout win would only drop Washington’s magic number to clinch to one.
An overtime or shootout loss by the Capitals would create a tie between the two teams with 53 points, and their magic number drops to three points gained or lost by the Jets. Winnipeg will have only one game remaining — Thursday against Montreal — while the Capitals will have two contests left, Thursday against Ottawa and Saturday against Boston.
Should Winnipeg win in regulation tonight, the Jets would take over the division lead and the Capitals’ magic number would remain at four.
The Capitals are well aware that they control their own fate and, ideally, would like to secure their trip to the postseason tonight.
“It’s good. It seems like the atmosphere is here, and the energy, and everybody’s excited for this game,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “This is the kind of games you want to play as well. I think everybody’s very comfortable tonight.”
The Jets are 6-0-1 in their past seven games and Washington knows it must be prepared to face a desperate team. While Winnipeg doesn’t control its own fate – the Jets could win their final two games in regulation and still not reach the postseason – it is trying to give itself the best chance possible.
So for the Capitals, that means it’s time to rise to the challenge and meet Winnipeg’s intensity.
“We’ve all been in these situations before. … They’re playing great hockey right now; we’ve got to make sure that we match their push,” Mike Green said. “They can’t come into our building and take two points, that’s for sure.”
— Hamilton: For Caps, it all comes down to this