Sports

Caps Conclude Regular Season in NYC

April 29 vs. New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden

Time: 7:00 p.m.

TV: nbcsw

Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan

Washington Capitals (44-25-12)

New York Rangers (51-24-6)

On Friday night at Madison Square Garden, the Caps and Rangers will tangle in the 2021-22 regular season finale for both teams. The game comes six and a half months after the Caps and Rangers opened the season against one another in Washington on Oct. 13. And depending on the outcome of this and other games around the circuit on Friday night, Friday’s game between the Caps and Rangers might also be a preview of an impending first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series between the two Metropolitan Division rivals.

Washington won that opening night contest more than six months ago, defeating the Rangers 5-1 on the strength of three power-play goals and Maxime Lapierre’s first NHL goal. The two teams met most recently here in New York on Feb. 24, a 4-1 Rangers victory.

Friday’s game is only the third meeting between the two Metro rivals this season; the addition of Seattle to the NHL in 2021-22 caused the number of divisional games to shrink from 28 to 26 this season, and the Caps faced both the Rangers and the Devils only three times instead of the typical total of four over a normal 82 -game campaign.

Neither team has anything concrete to play for in Friday’s finale. Both will be in the Stanley Cup playoffs next week, and the Rangers began resting regulars on Wednesday night in a 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

New York is locked into second place in the Metropolitan Division standings and will face either Pittsburgh or Washington in the first round of the playoffs next week. The Caps trail Pittsburgh by a point, and the Penguins host Columbus tonight. If Washington somehow leapfrogs over the Pens and into third place in the Metropolitan Division, the Caps would open the playoffs here against the Rangers next week. If the Pens finish third, they’ll take on the Rangers in the opening round and the Caps will start the postseason against Florida, winners of the 2021-22 Presidents’ Trophy.

Friday night’s game concludes a season-ending set of back-to-backs on the road for the Capitals, who were humbled 5-1 at the hands of the Islanders on Thursday night in Belmont, their third straight setback (0-2-1 ).

With captain alex ovechkin on the sidelines for the last two games, the Caps have gone 0-for-10 on the power play while yielding a shorthanded goal against in consecutive losses to the Islanders. The Isles exploited the Caps for five power-play goals in those two games, which started with a 4-1 loss in Washington on Tuesday.

While Washington’s 5-on-5 game has been respectable over its last five games, the Caps are 0-for-18 on the power play during that stretch, and their penalty kill has gone 5-for-11 (45.4 percent) in those fivegames. The Caps are 1-2-2 over that stretch, which has followed one of their most impressive victories of the season, a 3-2 win over the Avalanche in Colorado on April 18.

Both sides might be resting regulars for tonight’s season finale. After Thursday’s morning skate in Belmont, Caps coach Peter Laviolette hinted that Washington might have a different lineup for Friday’s finale against the Rangers.

“There might be some changes [Friday] too,” said Laviolette. “We’ll sift through it, and we’re just trying to get guys some games here.”

washington rested center Nicklas Backstrom for the back half of its most recent set of back-to-back games; the veteran pivot sat out an April 10 game against Boston, and it’s possible he could rest on Friday in New York as well.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby drew into Thursday night’s game against the Rangers, and he scored Washington’s lone goal of the contest. Suiting up for the first time in exactly a month, Jonsson-Fjallby scored his second goal of the season and of his NHL career in the final minute of regulation on Thursday, spoiling the shutout bid of Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Jonsson-Fjallby also victimized Varlamov for his first NHL goal in Washington on March 15, the same night in which Ovechkin scored his 767th career goal to pass Jaromir Jagr in becoming the NHL’s all-time leader in goals scored by European-born players.

For its Wednesday night game with the Canadiens, the Rangers rested star forwards Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider as well as defensemen Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren and Jacob Trouba. Forwards Artemi Panarin (upper body), Andrew Copp (lower body) and Tyler Motte (upper body) also sat out Wednesday’s game against the Habs.

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