The Washington Capitals were about to play their last game of the 2007-08 season, and on the verge of completing a nearly impossible run to the playoffs. On Thanksgiving Day, the Capitals had the worst record in the entire NHL. On New Year’s Day, they were tied for last place in the Eastern Conference. On March 9, they were tied with the Florida Panthers for tenth place in the Eastern Conference, trailing ninth place Buffalo Sabers by two points, trailing the eighth place Flyers by 6 points, and trailing the Carolina Hurricanes, who led their division, by 7 points.
Following back-to-back losses on March 8 and 9, the Caps had gone 10-1, which included a six-game winning streak, that was still active. They were now tied with the Hurricanes in points for the division lead, although Carolina owned the tie breaker against the Caps.
Yet, going into this game, the Caps now controlled their destiny, with regards to qualifying for the playoffs. The Canes had lost to the Panthers the previous night. Thus, a Caps’ win or even an overtime loss against the Panthers would give them the Southeast Division title and an automatic playoff berth.
As was the case for the entire season-closing homestand, the game was a sellout, with fans wearing red, Caps themed jerseys, shirseys, and teeshirts, truly “rocking the red”.
The Caps started the game in a somewhat shaky manner, but would soon settle down. The Caps broke the ice when Tomas Fleischmann scored at 7:19. He initially whiffed on a shot but then chased down the loose puck, deked goalie Craig Anderson, and slipped it by him. Fleischmann was assisted by Brooks Laich. The Caps led 1-0, a lead that held up through first intermission.
The Panthers tied the game at 6:47 in the second period while on a 5-on-3 power play. Sergei Fedorov restored the Caps’ lead with just under five minutes to go in the period when he fired a slapshot from the top of the circles that got past Anderson’s blocker.
while the Caps were on the power play, Alexander Semin scored an insurance goal for the Caps at 2:21 when he teed up a pass from Nicklas Backstrom and fired it past Anderson. He also got an assist from Fedorov. This goal was Semin’s 26th of the season.
The Caps now led 3-1, which ended up being the final score. The Caps had won their seventh game in a row and clinched the Southeast Division title and were now headed to the playoffs.
The one negative note about the game was that defenseman, Jeff Schultz, got injured. There was no report on whether it was an upper body or a lower body injury.
Goalie Cristobal Huet made 25 saves to earn his ninth straight win.
By winning the game, the Caps completed a nearly impossible comeback. They had made the playoffs despite being in 14th or 15th place in the conference at the season’s midpoint. It was the first time the Caps had qualified for the playoffs in five years.
Post-game, Alex Ovechkin said, “Oh yeah, this [playoffs] is one of my dreams. Now we’re there. Nobody believe in us. They thought we were a done team.”
Head Coach, Bruce Boudreau said, “There was never a word of ‘we couldn’t’ or ‘we wouldn’t’ or ‘we can’t. I just hope I wake up tomorrow, and yeah, we’re [still] in.”
Goalie Cristobal Huet remarked, “It’s just an amazing run we have. It’s just fun to be a part of this group right now. We’re so happy to accomplish this.”
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Game Recap from Washington Post
By Diane Doyle