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Halphern finds net twice to lead Caps past Bolts

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The playoff-bound Tampa Bay Lightning
shrugged off a listless performance in their regular season finale
against the Washington Capitals.

"I don't want to be short ... but it's not a big concern,"
coach John Tortorella said after the defending Stanley Cup
champions lost 4-1 to remain the No. 8 seed in the Eastern
Conference.

Jeff Halpern scored twice and goalie Brent Johnson stopped 42
shots for the last-place Capitals, who finished with a three-game
winning streak that included a win over Atlanta that eliminated the
Thrashers from postseason contention and clinched a berth for Tampa
Bay the previous night.

"We're getting ready for playoffs," Tortorella said. "I'm not
going to get too involved in this game. ... We'll be ready to play.
We're right where we want to be."

Nevertheless, the Lightning missed out on an opportunity to move
ahead of Montreal into the seventh seed. The Canadiens blew a
three-goal lead before losing 4-3 to New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay will begin the playoffs on the road Friday night
against top seed Ottawa, which won all four regular season meetings
between the teams and is 17-2-1 against the Lightning over the past
five seasons.

As the No. 7 seed, the Lightning would have faced No. 2 Carolina
in the first round. They won five of eight games against the
Hurricanes this season.

"You look at the scoreboard most of the night and it didn't
look we were going to get any higher," Lightning center Brad
Richards said. "It was tough to get the emotions up. We're
thinking about Friday and that was it. It was tough all day. It was
really tough after we clinched."

Washington's Alex Ovechkin notched his 54th assist of the season
on Halpern's first goal to finish with 106 points -- the
third-highest total by a rookie in NHL history. He also had 52
goals, third-best all-time for a first-year player.

Halpern gave Washington a 1-0 lead midway through the opening
period and made it 2-0 with an unassisted goal just 12 seconds into
the second period. Ben Clymer and Steve Eminger also scored for the
Capitals, who were outshot 43-28.

Tampa Bay tested Johnson all night long, but only got one shot
past the Washington goalie -- scoring on Ruslan Fedotenko's
power-play goal less than five minutes into the second period.
Clymer countered 71 seconds later to restore Washington's two-goal
advantage.

"Our confidence is higher now," Johnson said of Washington's
strong finish. "I wish we could be going to the playoffs right
now, to give our guys something to look forward to."

There were times this season when it looked like the Lightning
might become the first defending Stanley Cup winner to miss the
playoffs since the 1995-96 New Jersey Devils, however they
regrouped after a poor stretch following the Olympic break to
clinch a berth for the third straight season and the fourth time
overall.

John Grahame, whose inconsistency has left the Lightning without
a clearcut No. 1 goalie, missed out on an opportunity to tie
Nikolai Khabibulin's franchise single-season record of 30 victories
(2002-03).

Game notes
Lightning LW Vinny Prospal didn't play because of an upper
body injury. D Pavel Kubina, who missed three games from March
27-Apr. 3 with a lower body injury, also sat out. ... Capitals D
Jamie Heward missed his third consecutive game with an upper body
injury. ... The Capitals recalled RW Jonas Johansson from Hershey
of the AHL and G Maxime Daigneault from South Carolina of the ECHL.