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The Washington Capitals finally know exactly where they'll finish in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Unfortunately for the Florida Panthers, they have a pretty good idea where they'll end up as well.
After securing the No. 2 seed in the East, the Capitals look to do some fine-tuning for the playoffs in their regular-season finale Saturday night when they visit the Panthers, again eliminated from postseason contention.
Washington (50-23-8) clinched second place in the East by winning 4-2 at Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Brooks Laich had two goals as the Capitals set a franchise record by reaching 108 points and tied a team mark with 50 wins, matching the 1985-86 club.
The Capitals, however, won't be satisfied until their record-breaking regular season pays off in the playoffs.
"We're definitely proud of our accomplishments, but we haven't done nothing yet," said defenseman Mike Green, who added a goal and two assists against the Lightning.
Though he agrees that this is one of the best seasons in franchise history, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau says he won't know for sure until after the postseason.
"I think you've got to rank this team up there with a lot of them," said Boudreau, whose club has recorded at least one point in seven straight (5-0-2).
"I think it's quite an accomplishment in today's day and age with the salary cap and all the teams have the ability to be equal. But I think the best team in Capitals history has got to win the Stanley Cup because they've been there and lost it."
The Panthers (40-30-11) won't be playing for the Cup this spring after getting knocked out of the playoff race Thursday. They picked up a 3-2 win at Atlanta, but the New York Rangers and Montreal earned points to clinch the last two playoff berths in the East.
"You look back for one point throughout the year - that's hard to take," said winger David Booth, who scored the winning goal against the Thrashers with 4:25 left in the third period.
Florida has gone 5-2-0 over its last seven to reach its highest point total since its last playoff appearance in 1999-2000, but that's little consolation as the Panthers will sit out their eighth straight postseason.
"You don't lose (a chance at the playoffs) in the last few games. It's the whole course of the season. It's about consistency," goaltender Tomas Vokoun said.
The Panthers have gone 2-3-0 against the Southeast Division rival Capitals this season, including 0-2-0 at home.
Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who's second in the NHL with 108 points, has recorded at least one in all five games against Florida this season, totaling four goals and three assists.
Ovechkin, first in the league with 55 goals, has been held without one in each of his last three games after totaling five in his previous four.
Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe has two goals and three assists in Florida's two wins over Washington but has been held without a point in the three losses.