Apr 5, 2012, 9:50 PM EDT
Thursday night ended up being bittersweet for the Florida Panthers, bitter for the Buffalo Sabres and just plain sweet for the Washington Capitals.
With the Capitals’ 4-2 win against the Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-1 regulation victory against Buffalo, this much is clear:
1. The Sabres have been eliminated from the playoffs.
2. The Panthers are officially in the postseason for the first time since 2000 – the longest playoff drought in NHL history.
3. The Capitals will capture at least the eighth seed.
Point No. 3 is the most interesting because of what hasn’t been settled. In a made-for-TV blessing, the Capitals can wrestle the Southeast Division title from the Panthers if they get any sort of win and the Panthers lose in regulation on Saturday (the last night of the season).
The Capitals might actually feel more comfortable facing a team they’ve booted from the playoffs twice in the Ovechkin era in the No. 1 seed New York Rangers, but a seventh seed – and thus a match with the defending Stanley Cup champions the Boston Bruins – is still plausible if Washington wins and Ottawa doesn’t register another point.
Either way, Washington shook off a disturbing Michal Neuvirth injury when they only had a 1-0 lead to build it to 3-0. The Panthers found a way to get back into the game with two goals but Alex Semin scored a late insurance backhander as a power play expired to put it out of reach at 4-2.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Meanwhile, the Sabres face a summer of “What if?” questions, beginning perhaps with giving up a slim 1-0 lead to the Flyers. Philly certainly isn’t an easy draw, but Ryan Miller & Co. must live with the fact that the orange and black ended their season two years in a row. (This time before the playoffs.)This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Oh, and if you’re into somewhat-ridiculous comparisons between Brooks Laich‘s guarantee and Mark Messier’s famous one, guess who scored tonight’s game-winner? Brooks Laich.
Here’s a video update of what the East standings look like after a big night:This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
- Subban: Contract in arbitrator’s hands now 18
- Flyers’ Mason broke his right pinky finger playing ball hockey 23
- Lindros, LeClair and Desjardins to be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame 64
- It’s back! PHT’s Team of the Day summer series starts tomorrow 9
- Pens sign Spaling — two years, $4.4 million 13
- Agent: Subban hasn’t told me to make him NHL’s highest-paid D 32
- Devils sign Greene to five-year, $25M extension 18
- Subban seeking $8.5 million in arbitration, versus the Habs at $5.25 million 47
- Marchand on Plekanec: ‘I hate him. I can’t stand him’ 59
- Gettin’ paid: Gardiner inks five-year, $20.25M extension with Leafs 15
- Lindros, LeClair and Desjardins to be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame (64)
- Cashing in: Rangers sign Brassard to five-year, $25 million deal (63)
- Marchand on Plekanec: ‘I hate him. I can’t stand him’ (59)
- Poll: Is Drew Doughty the best defenseman in the world? (58)
- Subban seeking $8.5 million in arbitration, versus the Habs at $5.25 million (47)