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Thursday, March 25th (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (49-14-10) at Carolina Hurricanes (30-34-9), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals may be dealing with some distractions away from the rink, but that still hasn't affected their play on the ice.

Fresh off a stirring victory over one of their fiercest rivals, the Capitals try to move one step closer to clinching home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs in tonight's clash with the Carolina Hurricanes from the RBC Center.

One day after a few players were interviewed by authorities investigating a chiropractor with ties to the team who was recently arrested for purchasing steroids, Washington came through with a 4-3 shootout win over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins last night to extend its comfortable lead atop the Eastern Conference. The Caps now have a league-best 108 points on the season, 17 more than Pittsburgh in the race for the top spot.

After failing to hold onto a 3-2 lead late in the third period, Washington scored three times in the shootout to improve to 4-0-1 over its last five games. Alexander Semin scored in the third round to keep the Capitals alive, and after goaltender Jose Theodore made a save on the Pens' Chris Kunitz, Mike Knuble gave Washington the two points when he fired a shot over Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.

Washington trailed 2-1 after two periods before moving in front on goals by Semin and Eric Fehr that came two minutes apart in the third. Theodore did his part as well, stopping 39-of-42 shots between regulation and overtime.

According to the Washington Post, Fehr was one of three Capitals -- along with forward Matt Bradley and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn -- who spoke to law enforcement officials regarding Dr. Douglas Owen Nagel, arrested in Virginia on Tuesday for possessing performance-enhancing drugs. The three players had been patients of Nagel, although the report stated there was no evidence that the chiropractor distributed steroids to any member of the team.

As for last night's game, the victory enabled Washington to match a franchise- best for points in a season set in 2008-09. The Capitals are also in a position to possibly clinch the East's No. 1 seed, needing a win over the Hurricanes coupled with a New Jersey loss to the New York Rangers tonight to accomplish the feat. The Devils trail Pittsburgh by one point at the moment, but have two games in hand on the Penguins.

Washington will play this evening's test without the services of forward Brooks Laich, who'll sit out a second straight night after being struck in the face with a puck during a practice session on Tuesday. The 24-goal scorer is riding a six-game point streak in which he's notched four goals and four assists.

Carolina enters tonight's matchup having lost two straight and four of its last six games to further weaken the club's already-remote playoff chances. The Hurricanes did hand the Capitals a 4-3 overtime defeat in Raleigh on March 18, however, with Ray Whitney coming up with the game-winning goal with less than a minute left in extra time.

The Hurricanes were also taken to overtime in their last outing, but came out on a short side of a 3-2 decision at Tampa Bay after the Lightning's Martin St. Louis scored just 29 seconds into the deciding phase.

Carolina had claimed a 2-1 lead on second-period goals by Erik Cole and Chad LaRose, but Tampa's Steve Downie scored on the power play with 6:57 left in the third to force overtime.

"For the most part I thought we did a pretty decent job of keeping some pretty explosive players off the board," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "But at the end of the day it's a 1-on-1 play and we needed to have it," referring to St. Louis' tally.

Washington has gone 3-1-1 against the Hurricanes this season, but has lost in three of its last four visits to the RBC Center.

03/25 10:49:36 ET


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