Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 1-0 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday at Verizon Center:
How it happened: After a scoreless 65 minutes, the game went to a shootout. Lightning netminder Anders Lindback stopped shootout attempts by Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, while defenseman Matt Carle was the only shooter to beat Braden Holtby.
What it means for the Lightning: The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched home ice for their first-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, which is expected to begin Wednesday night in Tampa.
What it means for the Caps: With the Red Wings’ 3-0 win over St. Louis earlier on Sunday the Caps finished the regular season three points off the pace with a 38-30-14 record and 90 points. The Caps finished the season 24-30 in games decided in regulation, 4-3 in games decided in overtime and 10-11 in shootouts. Their 21 shootouts is an NHL record. They were also 0-25-7 in games in which they scored two goals or fewer.
[MORE: Holtby hears the rumblings]
Did you notice: In the waning minutes of the third period a chant of “Holtby .. Holtby … Holtby” rose up from the crowd. Barring any roster changes over the summer Braden Holtby will compete with Philipp Grubauer for the starting job next season.
Waiting for Wey: Caps defenseman Patrick Wey said he is still recovering from the uppercut he took to the chin from Rich Clune two weeks ago and that he does not plan on playing for the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup playoffs unless they good deep into the postseason. He also said he’s had multiple concussions in his career and is being extra cautious.
Where they played: Center Peter LeBlanc made his NHL debut and played on a fourth line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. Mikhail Grabovski remained on a top line with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom; Jay Beagle centered a second line with Dustin Penner and Troy Brouwer. The third line of Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Eric Fehr remained intact.
Look ahead: The Caps failed to make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and will conduct their breakup day on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Addressing Ryan Malone: Before the game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper spoke to reporters about left wing Ryan Malone, who was arrested Saturday morning for driving under the influence and possessing cocaine.
“No matter what happens, regardless of anything, you’re dealt with as a human being first, a hockey player second,” Cooper said of the 34-year-old veteran. “That’s how we deal with everything. That can be translated into someone being traded, recalled. I’m a true believer in that. You’re a human being first. You want to look after your players and their lives first.”
Cooper said he has spoken with Malone, who has been a healthy scratch in nine of the team’s final 20 games.
“There’s a whole process that’s going to go through here that’s out of our hands,” Cooper said. “Obviously, Ryan is probably a little embarrassed about what’s gone on.
“To me, it was a poor decision. But for me, I’ve watched all the good decisions he’s made in his life and how charitable he’s been and how much of a staple he’s been in our community in the years he’s been here, and I hope this doesn’t take away from that.
“He’s been a class act for us on and off the ice. Nobody’s perfect, we all make [poor] decisions at one point in our lives. I know I’ve made them and I’m sure everybody in this group has made them
“This is a learning experience for him and we’re really looking forward to getting him back at some point.”
With the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs just a few days away, Cooper said he does not expect Malone’s situation to be a distraction.
“Hockey-wise, we’ve had way more distractions worse than this,” he said. “This is more of a life issue with a friend of ours. He’s doing OK and hopefully, the worst is over.”
Oh-for-D.C: Cooper and the Lightning went into the game having lost five straight times to the Caps, leaving him winless against the team that interviewed him for the head coaching job before hiring Adam Oates. “I know we haven’t beaten them,” he said before the game. “I like the way they play. I don’t know what’s happened to them.”