BOSTON (AP) — The Washington Capitals were so dominant this season that they had nothing left to play for with two games left in the NHL schedule.
That’s precisely why the Bruins want to avoid them in the playoffs.
‘‘In retrospect, it’s over and we’re through it,’’ Boston forward David Backes said after finishing the regular season with back-to-back losses, falling 3-1 to the Capitals on Saturday to set up a potential first-round matchup with Washington. ‘‘We did what we could through 82 games, and we can’t change it now.’’
Kevin Shattenkirk scored the go-ahead goal 56 seconds after the Bruins tied it in the second period, and backup Philipp Grubauer made 21 saves for the Capitals. Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored for Washington, which has won 10 of its last 11 games.
‘‘We’ve kept working and trying to build our game for the playoffs,’’ said Johansson, whose Capitals have won the Presidents’ Trophy for the second straight year. ‘‘We have to keep trying to improve. We have another game tomorrow to do that, and then it’s ‘Go’ time.’’
Earlier Saturday, Ottawa beat the Rangers 3-1 to reach 98 points with one game remaining and clinch the No. 2 spot in the Atlantic Division. That means the Bruins will start on the road, but they still have a chance to avoid the top-seeded Capitals in the first round if they can stay ahead of Toronto.
The Maple Leafs were to host Pittsburgh on Saturday night and Columbus on Sunday. If they get three points out of their last two games, they would pass Boston and finish third in the Atlantic. (If not, Boston would play Ottawa.)
‘‘Now we’re scoreboard-watchers,’’ Backes said. ‘‘That’s all we can do. See who our opponent is in the first round.’’
Bruins No. 2 goalie Anton Khudobin stopped 21 of 24 shots he faced in the first two periods before he was replaced by starter Tuukka Rask. The team said Khudobin wasn’t feeling well. Rask stopped all eight shots he faced in the third period.
Johansson scored on Washington’s first shot of the game, four minutes in. Colin Miller tied it for Boston with 15:13 gone in the second, but Shattenkirk put the Capitals back in front less than a minute later. Another Washington goal was waved off for goalie interference, but Williams added one that counted in the final minute of the second period.
‘‘It was a good response from us,’’ Williams said. ‘‘First after their goal, and then after the disallowed goal.’’
NOTES: Bruins F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson made his NHL debut. He’s the 10th player to make his NHL debut for the Bruins this season. … F Brad Marchand missed the second game of his two-game suspension for spearing Tampa Bay defenseman Jake Dotchin in the groin. D Torey Krug, who left Thursday night’s game with a leg injury, also did not play. … Boston D Brandon Carlo left late in the first period after a check by Alex Ovechkin, and did not return. … New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a luxury suite for the game. … Washington was without D John Carlson, who missed his third straight game with an unspecified injury, and F Brett Connolly, who was sick.
Capitals: Play Florida on Sunday at 7 p.m.
Bruins: End of regular season. Await the results of Toronto games to find out if they finish third or fourth in the division.