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Caps vs. Habs Recap: Fourth Line Flies, Caps Clinch Metropolitan Division

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The Washington Capitals secured a fourth-straight Metropolitan Division title on Thursday night, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 at Capital One Arena.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“You come at the kings, you better not miss.”

And with a fourth-straight Metropolitan Division championship on the line against a Montreal team more desperately hungry than me waiting outside the front door for Cava to open, could Washington take the Canadiens best shot?

Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Capitals’ fourth line continues to play like overachieving wunderkinds.

Minus: The Pittsburgh Penguins also won, and clinched a spot in the playoffs, as well. That’s almost worse, isn’t it?

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. On the biggest Thursday night in Washington since City Paper announced a new cherry blossom-themed pop-up bar in DuPont Circle, the Capitals hosted the Montreal Canadiens with a chance to clinch an astonishing fourth-straight Metropolitan Division title.

2. On the other bench, les Habitants were fighting for their playoff lives, the 9th-best Eastern Conference team outside looking in at the final wildcard spot. Could they fight and scrap to vivent la vie?

3. To hear the media tell it, this would be the Alex Ovechkin vs. Carey Price show. But Caps fans in the know all know the real story: Lars Eller versus those who spurned him, baby! Could The Lartian rub du sel in the wounds of his old handlers?

4. This game was a bit of a snoozer until the final minute of the first frame. Then, things got real, fast. A great forecheck by Carl Hagelin won the puck back in the offensive zone for the Capitals, and Lars Eller eventually finished off the tic-tac-toe passing play that resulted, making it 1-0 Washington against The Lartian’s former team.

5. But just 56 seconds later, Montreal’s Shea Weber blasted home the business end of a similarly lovely timing play, and He-Who-Was-Traded-For-PK knotted it at 1-1 at the first horn.

6. The Capitals’ bottom-six forwards would continue to pull their weight in the second frame, and kick their play into high gear at just the right time of year. On another great forechecking sequence, Andre Burakovsky stole the biscuit in the attacking zone, turned, and found Nic Dowd in the slot. Dowd ripped a snap shot past Carey Price and into the back of the net, giving Quick Nic his 8th goal of the season and Washington a 2-1 lead after two periods.

7. In the third and final frame, Montreal - its season on the line - threw everything it had at the Capitals, and Braden Holtby and the rest of the squad held down the fort like like girthy logs. Carey Price could only look on helpless from the bench as the clock ticked down to 0.0, and the Capitals were named 2-1 winners.

8. Braden Holtby was a certified Saskatchewonder in this contest. He kept Washington alive in the first period, making 15 saves in the first 20 minutes alone. All told, he saved 33-of-34 for a .971 SV%. Merci, cher Holtbeast. Nous t’adorons.

9. With the win, the Capitals secured their fourth-straight METROPOLITAN DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP!!! Eat it, Eastern Seaboard! Eat it!, mid-Atlantic region! Eat it, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and New York!

10. The win all but eliminates Montreal from playoff contention, as Pittsburgh won, too. Capitals fans will keep checking the out-of-town scoreboard to see how the playoffs are beginning to shake out.

The next one is the last one, folks. The New York Islanders and Barry Trotz at home on Saturday night.

Then, the big dance begins.

Let’s Go Caps.

Game highlights: