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Caps seek to better playoff chances versus Habs

The Capitals moved back into the playoff picture without stepping onto the ice. Washington aims to hold onto that position tonight with a second straight victory as it battles the Montreal Canadiens.

Washington went into Friday tied with Buffalo for the eighth spot with 86 points, but the Sabres held the tiebreaker because it had played one fewer game. Buffalo used up that game in hand last night and lost to Pittsburgh, putting the Capitals into the eighth spot because both clubs now have four games left to play and Washington has five more non-shootout wins, the next tiebreaker.

Buffalo is also in action today as it visits Toronto, while Washington still has its eye on first place in the Southeast division. The Capitals trail the idle Panthers by four points for the spot.

After getting slammed 5-1 at home by the Sabres, the Capitals rebounded a bit with a 3-2 shootout win over the Bruins on Thursday. Washington got goals from Dennis Wideman and Marcus Johansson, but was unable to hold a late lead as Boston scored twice in the third period's final 3:10.

However, Brooks Laich rescued his team by scoring the game-winner in the fourth round of the shootout. The Capitals had lost five of seven, but are now 3-1-2 in their past six.

"We kept them in check pretty much until the last couple minutes," Capitals head coach Dale Hunter said about Boston. "That's hockey. You have to battle back."

Tomas Vokoun made his first start in seven games because of a groin injury and stopped all seven shots he faced before aggravating the injury with 1:35 left in the first period. Michal Neuvirth replaced Vokoun and stopped 19-of-21 shots fired his way.

Washington has outscored Montreal 10-1 this season, posting consecutive 3-0 wins at Montreal before a 4-1 triumph at home on Feb. 24. The Capitals have won five straight and nine of the past 12 encounters overall, taking six of the past eight played in Washington.

The Canadiens hope to put the brakes on a three-game slide tonight as they wrap up a disappointing season. Montreal is last in the Eastern Conference with 72 points and four games to play.

The Habs were dealt a 4-1 loss by the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers last night, getting a late goal from Rene Bourque and 25 saves by Carey Price. The defeat came one day after the firing of general manager Pierre Gauthier.

"Our heart was in the game and that is a hard team to outwork," said Montreal head coach Randy Cunneyworth. "I thought we did a good job of getting some pucks on the net, but their goaltender played well. I liked the way we played tonight."

The Canadiens have lost six of their past seven overall and nine of their last 11 on the road.

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