WASHINGTON (AP) — Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins need to win the last game of the NHL regular season to claim the Northeast Division title after wasting a two-goal lead and losing 3-2 to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night when Eric Fehr scored on a power play 3:23 into overtime.
The Bruins will host the Ottawa Senators on Sunday, in a game rescheduled because of the Boston Marathon bombings. The season originally was supposed to end Saturday.
Boston entered Saturday tied for first place in the division with the Montreal Canadiens, who beat Toronto 4-1 to grab a one-point lead in the standings.
“It’s good that there are no games that don’t matter,” Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. “Every game has mattered this season, and that’s the way it’s going to be until the end.”
If Boston beats Ottawa on Sunday — in regulation, overtime or a shootout — the Bruins will be the No. 2 seed. Otherwise, the Canadiens will be No. 2, and the Bruins will be No. 4.
The Capitals had nothing at stake Saturday night, already having clinched the Southeast Division championship and gotten locked into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. And as of Saturday, the Capitals know their opponent for the first round of the playoffs next week: the New York Rangers, who beat the New Jersey Devils 4-0 earlier in the day.
It’s the fourth time in the past five seasons that the Capitals and Rangers meet in the postseason.
Washington’s first-year coach, Adam Oates, held a closed-door team meeting in the locker room after beating Boston.
“We talked a little bit about focus from now on,” Oates said. “We came a long way to get this far, and we obviously want to go a lot further. So we talked about rest and focus.”
Milan Lucic and Andrew Ference put Boston ahead 2-0 before Washington captain Alex Ovechkin assisted on Mike Green’s two power-play scores within less than two minutes in the third period.
Ovechkin didn’t get a goal himself, leaving his league-leading total at 32. He led the NHL in goals in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
“It feels good. I didn’t win personal awards a couple years in a row, so it’s nice to come back,” Ovechkin said.
It was Green who took a shot in overtime that was blocked by Rask, and Fehr was in the right spot to poke in the rebound. Bruins captain Chara was in the penalty box after a hooking call.
“We knew, coming into the game, that we had to stay out of the penalty box,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
“Ended up costing us the game,” he said.
Saturday was a rematch of a tight and testy first-round playoff series won by Washington in seven games last season, and things got scrappy this time, too. In the closing minutes of regulation, Chara slammed Washington center Nicklas Backstrom into the boards in a corner, dislodging a piece of glass. Seconds later, Ovechkin and Boston’s Brad Marchand exchanged some words and shoves and both got roughing penalties.
Boston went ahead 1-0 about 10 minutes into the game, when David Krejci won a faceoff and sent the puck back to Lucic, whose shot deflected off Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner’s right skate and sailed past goalie Braden Holtby.
Ference doubled Boston’s lead 7:49 into the second period with a wrister from near the right circle while Lucic screened Holtby. That inspired a chorus of “Let’s go, Bruins!” chants from some Boston fans in the stands, which were dotted with black-and-yellow jerseys of the visiting team.
Rask lost his shutout bid 5 1/2 minutes into the third period — and 15 seconds into a power play — when Green wristed in a shot from inside the blue line. That was part of a stretch in which Boston was whistled for three penalties, two on Adam McQuaid, in a span of about three minutes.
After the second, Green converted from nearly the same spot as his earlier goal, 115 seconds later.
NOTES: Ex-Capitals forward Jaromir Jagr was scratched because of what the Bruins said were flulike symptoms. … Ovechkin led the NHL in goals in 2007-08 and 2008-09. … Before the game, the Capitals announced they signed G Michal Neuvirth to a $5 million, two-year contract extension. That means he’ll be paid more than usual starter Holtby, who signed a $3.7 million, two-year deal in February. “While some people may consider Michal a backup this year, we don’t consider him a backup,” Capitals general manager George McPhee said. “We think he’s an outstanding goaltender. And he’s been a great pro this year. Hasn’t played as much as he wanted to — and didn’t whine and didn’t create any issues.” … Asked about the status of injured F Brooks Laich, sidelined since April 4 with a groin injury, McPhee said that if Laich starts skating in the next two weeks, the player could be ready in time for the second round of the playoffs. “Maybe before that, though, with this guy,” McPhee said.