Fri, Apr 07, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Capitals secure NHL Presidents’ Trophy yet again

AP, WASHINGTON

Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals, center, scores past New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, left, in their NHL game in Washington on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

Winning the Presidents’ Trophy is becoming old hat for the Washington Capitals, though this time it could be more important than ever.

The Capitals beat the New York Rangers 2-0 on Wednesday to wrap up their second consecutive regular-season points title, the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the Metropolitan Division title. With all those banner additions, the best home team in the NHL will have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

Even though Washington beat opponents with nothing to play for and six regulars out of the lineup, Alex Ovechkin is rolling and believes he and his teammates are trending positively as they finished at the top of the league standings for the third time in eight seasons.

“It means we’re best team in the season, but the most important season is coming soon,” said Ovechkin, whose shot was tipped in by Justin Williams for the game-winner on a power play. “I think everybody focusing, everybody playing the right direction.”

Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored and Braden Holtby had a 24-save shutout of the Rangers, who are locked into the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and will face Atlantic Division champions the Montreal Canadiens.

New York looked to be going through the motions, but Washington coach Barry Trotz said there was “unfinished business” and his players took care of it in a game that had all the intensity of the pre-season.

The Capitals did not acknowledge their accomplishment, but they understood what was at stake.

“Some guys gonna say they didn’t care, they’re [a] liar,” said Kuznetsov, who scored for the fourth time in 19 games. “It’s always nice to win something.”

For Washington, Ovechkin getting back on track and Kuznetsov scoring for the fourth time in 19 games made for good signs with a potentially difficult first-round matchup looming.

Trotz said the Capitals never talked about winning the Presidents’ Trophy, but rather about winning the Metropolitan Division and giving themselves the all-important home ice in the playoffs.

“It just gives us that opportunity to have the last change in a Game 7 or crowd behind us, or whatever,” Trotz said. “It’s a point of pride that we’ve been consistent.”

The Capitals were eliminated by the eventual champions the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round last year and got knocked out in the first round by the Canadiens in 2009-2010.

Only Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner and John Carlson remain from the team that lost Game 7 to Montreal that year.

That past matters far less than the advantage of home ice and first place this spring, which means avoiding a brutal first-round opponent.

“You obviously want to not play either Pittsburgh or Columbus in the first round, but in the end it doesn’t matter,” said Holtby, who leads the league with 42 victories. “You got to go through good teams and hopefully this just gives us a little bit more of an advantage.”

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