NEW YORK -- The Capitals received another solid performance from goalie Rick Tabaracci, who shut out the New York Rangers, 2-0, last night at Madison Square Garden and helped Washington clinch second place in the Patrick Division.
The victory also assured Washington of home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin Sunday.
It was Tabaracci's second shutout in five starts since joining the club last month. The Washington goalie made strong, acrobatic stops on shot after shot for 46 minutes and 54 seconds, while waiting for his teammates to score.
When the scoring came, it was all Peter Bondra, from long distance and short range, on two shots within 3 1/2 minutes midway through the final period.
The Capitals' playoff opponent will be determined tomorrow night, when the New York Islanders play the New Jersey Devils to determine third and fourth place.
If the Islanders tie or lose, the Capitals will face New Jersey, because the Devils would have more wins. If the Islanders win, they would finish third, because they hold the edge in the head-to-head series.
Washington plays its final regular-season game tomorrow night at the Capital Centre against the Rangers.
Last night, the big story was Tabaracci, who made 23 saves and recorded his third career shutout.
"I can't explain it other than to say the best reason I can think of is confidence, and a lot of the confidence comes from the organization," said Tabaracci, who was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets on March 22 for goalie Jim Hrivnak.
"You know how big of a game this was? It clinches things for us, and that to me shows a lot of confidence from the organization. In Winnipeg, they didn't know how to pat a guy on the back. Here, they've been very open with me. Coach Murray didn't promise me a job. He promised me an opportunity, and he's kept his word."
Murray said Tabaracci was "pumped up" for last night's game and "played well." He would not say, however, that he had replaced Don Beaupre as the No. 1 goalie.
He did say, however, that Tabaracci is making his decision more difficult before the playoffs.
"I've got to make a decision about what we're going to do in the playoffs," said Murray. "And I'm happy to have to make it. But we've got a game left. We'll see what happens."
For a long time last night, it looked like the game would end in an 0-0 tie, as neither team could solve the other's defense.
Tabaracci and Rangers goalie Mike Richter were flawless for two periods, but with 13:06 remaining, Paul Cavallini and Michal Pivonka set Bondra up for a slap shot above the red circle for the first goal.
Then, at the 9:50 mark, Pivonka and Sylvain Cote made the passes that found Bondra in front of the New York net for the second goal.
"That put the nail in it," said Tabaracci. "For a long time it looked like it was going to 0-0, and it was getting pretty frustrating."
Washington took 39 shots on goal and at one point during the first period was out-shooting New York, 12-1. The second period seemed to deteriorate, with Washington failing to get more than one shot on two power plays and New York getting none on its one.
NOTE: The arbitration case of Capitals F Pat Elynuik has been settled, with Elynuik being awarded $525,000 for the rest of this season and next. His previous salary was $245,000. The Capitals had offered $337,500.