The Washington Capitals clinched their fifth straight playoff appearance with a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, but even with the loss, the Panthers were able to seal up a playoff spot of their own. Both have the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers to thank.
Philly's 2-1 come-from-behind regulation win over the Sabres gave the Panthers a guaranteed playoff spot, and the Buffalo loss combined with Washington's win gave the Caps a playoff spot.
Jay Beagle, Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich opened up a 3-0 lead for the Capitals before Mikael Samuelsson and Ed Jovanovski pulled Florida within a goal. There was hope for the Panthers -- and thus the Sabres, watching from the locker room in Philadelphia -- late in the third, but an Alex Semin goal with 1:02 left in the third sealed the deal and Buffalo's fate.
Now, all that's left in the Eastern Conference playoff picture is seeding. The Capitals' win gives them a shot at the Southeast Division title on Saturday night when the NHL season comes to a close. They need to beat the New York Rangers and hope for a Carolina regulation win over the Panthers to grab the Southeast title. Otherwise, Florida will win its first ever division title.
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