Before 16,364 at the Capital Centre, the Capitals scored three third-period goals to defeat the New York Islanders, 5-2, yesterday and move into the Patrick Division playoffs, which begin April 9.
"Getting into the playoffs for 10 straight years is quite an accomplishment," said Washington coach Terry Murray, who recorded his 95th victory in less than 2 1/2 years.
"This is a great tribute to [general manager] David Poile, who has gotten the team into the playoffs every year he has been here." Poile is 413-292-85 with the Capitals.
The Capitals, who posted their 40th victory of the season and moved to within five points of the idle and first-place New York Rangers, had several heroes.
Mike Ridley scored the go-ahead goal, his 25th goal of the season and 200th of his NHL career. Dimitri Khristich had two goals and an assist, giving him a team-leading 31 goals. Don Beaupre posted the 200th victory of his NHL career and a personal-high 26th of the season, making 18 saves. Dino Ciccarelli scored his second goal in the past 19 games, and Michal Pivonka, the team's point leader with 73, handed out three assists.
The Capitals took a 2-0 first-period lead on two power-play goals by Khristich. Both were five-on-three goals, and both were toward the left goal post on cross-slot passes from Pivonka.
The Islanders, chasing the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final Patrick Division playoff berth, rallied in the second period on goals by Steve Thomas and Bill Berg. Both came on two-on-one breaks.
"I never had a chance at either of the goals," said Beaupre. "I got a little worried when they tied it, but we came back and found the scoring touch in the third period. It's very gratifying to get into the playoffs."
Washington picked up its offense in the third period. Ridley scored on a shot from just in front of the goal line that bounced off goalie Mark Fitzpatrick's skate and into the net. Ciccarelli connected on a slap shot from just inside the blue line, and Kevin Hatcher completed the scoring with a power-play goal from the edge of the left circle.
"Scoring my 200th goal is a nice personal accomplishment," said Ridley. "But winning the game and getting into the playoffs is much more important. On my goal, I just tried to put the puck on the net, and it hit the goalie's skate and went in. It was nice to see us scoring a few goals in the late going. We can't afford to sit back and try to protect a one-goal lead like we did in Philadelphia Saturday [Washington lost, 3-1, on three third-period goals].
"We have the offensive talent on this team, and we have to keep forechecking, creating turnovers and taking advantage of our scoring opportunities. We have to make things happen."