SOUTHEAST DIVISION CHAMPS | Caps in, Canes out
The Washington Capitals did it. By beating the Florida Panthers 3-1 tonight, the Caps finished off the regular season with seven consecutive wins, winning 11 of their last 12, to claim the NHL’s Southeast Division. In doing so, the Carolina Hurricanes – themselves winners of 12 of 15 down the stretch before dropping three of their last four games – were clearly and cleanly bumped from the NHL playoffs.
The Canes have missed the post-season twice in a row since winning the 2006 Stanley Cup.
By losing to Tampa Bay a week ago and to Washington Tuesday, the Hurricanes put themselves into a situation where they no longer controlled their own destiny. They beat Tampa Bay at home Wednesday, but Friday’s loss to Florida put the division title in the hands of the Caps. All they needed was a single point in tonight’s game to break the tie atop the Southeast, but by winning in regulation they got two – putting Carolina in 9th place and making today the first day of the 2008 off-season.