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Capitals receive massive break to clinch Stanley Cup Playoffs berth

NHL: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers
Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It took 82 regular-season games and one massive break for the Washington Capitals to clinch a berth in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As such, the Capitals became the 16th and final team to qualify for the NHL postseason. They will play the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers in a best-of-7 first-round series.

Washington held off the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers to secure the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Capitals won their final three games and four of five.

But they also received a huge dose of good fortune Tuesday when they defeated the Flyers 2-1 in Philly.

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Capitals catch break to defeat Flyers, clinch playoff berth

NHL: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers coach John Tortorella on Tuesday – Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With the scored tied 1-1 late in the third period, Flyers coach John Tortorella pulled goalie Samuel Ersson for an extra attacker. He did so because the Flyers needed to win in regulation to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

However, Tortorella didn’t know that the Red Wings game against the Montreal Canadiens had already moved into overtime. That meant the Red Wings had secured at least one point in the standings and thus the Flyers were officially eliminated from postseason contention.

Shortly after Ersson arrived on the Flyers bench, T.J. Oshie scored into the empty net for the Capitals with three minutes remaining in regulation. The goal held up and the Capitals clinched a spot in the playoffs.

“I think it happened pretty close together. I’m pulling him. I’m pulling him, and that was the right time to pull him,” Tortorella explained. “Didn’t know anything was going on with Detroit at that time but immediately after that, our videos guys tell us that Detroit just went to overtime.”

Had Ersson not been pulled and the Flyers somehow managed to win in any fashion, the Red Wings would have punched their playoff ticket since they defeated the Canadiens 6-5 in a shootout and would have finished ahead of the Capitals.

All of this had Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin quite appreciative that Tortorella pulled his goalie.

“Detroit get a point and they still pull the goalie. They didn’t know that,” Ovechkin said. “But we’ll take it. Thanks, Philly.”

The Capitals are back in the playoffs after missing out last season. They’ve reached the postseason in 15 of the past 17 seasons and won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

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