UPDATES SCORER OF GOAL, AFTER CHANGE IN SCORING - Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, celebrates a Capitals goal by Justin Williams with defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Washington. Ovechkin had an assist on the goal. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Capitals beat Rangers to clinch Presidents' Trophy again

April 05, 2017 - 11:03 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored and the Washington Capitals wrapped up their second consecutive Presidents' Trophy with a 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.

As Metropolitan Division champions, the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the team with the most points in the NHL, the Capitals wrapped up home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. It's their third Presidents' Trophy in the past eight seasons.

Williams tipped Alex Ovechkin's shot past Henrik Lundqvist on the power play in the second period, and Kuznetsov scored off the rush in the third. The best home team in the league beat the best road team thanks to a 24-save shutout from Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby.

Lundqvist was in playoff form, making 23 saves in his fifth consecutive start since returning from a two-week injury absence.

With the Rangers resting six regulars because they're locked into the first wild-card spot and a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens, this rivalry showdown felt more like a preseason game. High-quality scoring chances and high-risk plays were at a minimum for two teams that will be playing playoff games next week.

Ovechkin looked to have snapped a four-game goal drought, scoring from his trademark spot in the faceoff circle, but a scoring change made it Williams' 22nd of the season. Ovechkin getting back on track and Kuznetsov scoring for the fourth time in 19 games made for good signs for Washington with a potentially difficult first-round matchup looming against the likes of Boston, Ottawa or Toronto.

Coach Barry Trotz said the Capitals never talked about winning the Presidents' Trophy but rather winning the hypercompetitive Metropolitan Division and giving themselves the all-important home ice in the playoffs.

"It just gives us that opportunity to have the last change in a Game 7 or crowd behind us or whatever," Trotz said. "It's a point of pride that we've been consistent."

Eight of the 30 Presidents' Trophy winners won the Stanley Cup, three lost in the final, six lost in the conference finals, seven lost in the second round and six lost in the first round. In the salary-cap era that began in 2005-06, two of the 11 winners won the Cup, one lost in the final, two lost in the conference finals, two lost in the second round and four lost in the first round.

The Capitals were eliminated by the eventual Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round last year and got knocked out in the first round by the Canadiens in 2010. Only Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom and defensemen Karl Alzner and John Carlson remain from the team that lost Game 7 to Montreal that year.

Backstrom said last year he places no value in winning the Presidents' Trophy because of the first-round exit in 2010, but Alzner brushed off the idea of a curse months ago with the Capitals atop the standings.

"Every team wants to win and wants to win the Presidents' (Trophy)," Alzner said in February. "They're going to tell you it doesn't matter if we win the Presidents' (Trophy) because it matters in the playoffs, which is true, but if any team said that they didn't want to win it, then that would be bogus in my opinion."

NOTES: Rangers forwards Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash and Jesper Fast and defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei and Nick Holden were held out with minor injuries. Coach Alain Vigneault said they would have all played if the game mattered and will be ready for the start of the playoffs. ... Carlson missed a second consecutive game with a lower-body injury that Trotz said he doesn't consider serious.


Rangers: Visit Ottawa on Saturday in a game that means far more to the Senators' playoff positioning than New York's.

Capitals: Visit the Boston Bruins on Saturday in a potential first-round playoff preview.

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