- Saturday, March 31, 2012 7:56 PM
- Written By: Josh Marks
Tonight was huge for the two teams in the Eastern Conference locked in a fierce battle for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres both came into their games tied at 86 points with four games left to play in the regular season.
The Capitals own the tiebreaker with more regulation and overtime wins, but Buffalo had a chance to take a two point lead on the Caps as they faced off against the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Center. Buffalo is banged up on the blue line with Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers both injured and it showed tonight as the Leafs scored four goals to defeat the Sabres 4-3 and deal a big blow to their playoff hopes. And Toronto did it with young goaltender Ben Scrivens, who was called up from the AHL Toronto Marlies because both Leafs starters are injured. It goes to show you never know what can happen on any given night. What an amazing upset by Toronto.
In Washington, the Capitals faced off against the Montreal Canadiens, another team like the Leafs that has had a disappointing season. But just like in Toronto, when the season is winding down, sometimes the most dangerous teams are the ones not making the playoffs that want to be spoilers. The Caps were cruising with a 2-0 lead and their number one center Nicklas Backstrom finally back in the lineup after recovering from a concussion suffered from a cheap shot to the head from then Calgary Flame, now Hab Rene Bourque. But it would be no cakewalk as the Canadiens kept chipping away and tied the game in the second period. Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth made some crucial saves down the stretch and the Caps and Habs went to a shootout. Caps winger Alex Semin scored the game winner in the shootout and the Caps secured two points.
Not only did the Caps gain two points on the Sabres with three games left in the season, but the Caps also put pressure on the seventh place Ottawa Senators, who won their game against the Flyers today in a shootout, and the Florida Panthers, who lead the Southeast Division and are in third place but lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets last night. The Caps are now only two points behind the Sens and Cats, who are at 90 points. The Caps play a tough game at Tampa Monday night, and then it sets up what could be an enormous game against Florida on Thursday night at the Verizon Center in what could determine which team takes the Southeast Division title. The Sabres get a rematch with Toronto and then two tough games against the Flyers and Bruins.
Washington, Buffalo, Ottawa and Florida are now in a heated battle for the playoffs and it sets up an intense and emotional last week of the season for fans of these clubs.