Mon, Mar 20, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Capitals beat Lightning to clinch a playoff berth

AP, TAMPA, Florida

The Washington Capitals became the first team to clinch a spot in the NHL playoffs by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 on Saturday.

The Capitals are in the post-season for the ninth time in 10 years after T.J Oshie had three goals and an assist, while Justin Williams and John Carlson had early third-period goals.

“It feels good,” Oshie said.

“It’s one thing on the checklist we wanted to cross off,” he said. “We got there. Most important thing for us, we want to be playing at the very elite level, at our top level entering the playoffs. That’s our goal.”

Oshie scored twice, including an early power-play goal, as the Capitals took a 2-0 lead midway through the first period. He completed his third career hat-trick with an empty-netter in the final minute.

Oshie has 10 goals and 19 points in 14 games against Tampa Bay.

Williams had a redirection goal 3 minutes, 14 seconds into the period before Carlson swatted a thigh-high puck home to make it 4-2 at 5:30.

Washington also got four assists from Nicklas Backstrom, while Braden Holtby stopped 26 shots.

The Washington Capitals are 2-0-1 since a four-game skid.

“I think the last three games, obviously, they haven’t been perfect, but there’s been areas where we’ve had big strides forward,” Holtby said.

Nikita Kucherov had two goals and Alex Killorn had the other for the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves.

Tampa Bay trail Toronto by two points for the second Eastern Conference wild-card after allowing five goals in consecutive losses at home.

“Our backs are against the wall,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

“We’ve got to pull points out of games,” he said.

Kucherov got Tampa Bay within a goal at 4-3 with 1:30 left, but Oshie sealed it with his third of the game.

The Lightning tied it at 2-2 late in the first period as Kucherov, on a power play set up by Oshie’s high-sticking penalty, and Killorn scored 16 seconds apart.

Killorn stopped a 16-game goal drought, while Kucherov got his 32nd goal this season and his 100th overall.

Alex Ovechkin assisted on Oshie’s second goal and tied Florida’s Jaromir Jagr for the most points against Tampa Bay with 83.

He has played the Lightning 63 times.

Ovechkin, who has one goal in his past 13 games, had seven shots on goal.

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