03/22/2016 22:20 EDT | Updated 03/23/2017 01:12 EDT

Capitals beat Senators to clinch top spot in the Eastern Conference

OTTAWA — The Washington Capitals clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.

Mike Richards, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, with an empty net, scored for the Capitals (52-15-5) as Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots.

Chris Wideman and Mika Zibanejad scored for the Senators (34-32-8). Craig Anderson made 18 saves.

The loss will likely fuel the fire set by owner Eugene Melnyk earlier in the morning when he told reporters changes could be expected during the off-season. Melnyk called the season, "just a total roller coaster of hope and despair."

The Senators also lost defenceman Dion Phaneuf as he took a hit from Brooks Orpik in the second period. Phaneuf managed to play a few more shifts, but did not return for the third period due to a lower-body injury.

Trailing 3-1, the Senators best opportunity in the third came on the power play, but Ottawa has been terrible with the man advantage — going 0-for-27 through 10 games and 0 for 4 on Tuesday.

Zibanejad gave life to the 19,313 on hand, scoring at 18:27 from a sharp angle as the puck went in off Holtby. But the Senators were unable to complete the comeback and Oshie iced the game with an empty-net goal.

Washington led 3-0 before the Senators got on board midway through the second as Wideman managed to get a shot through traffic to beat Holtby.

A disappointing first period saw the Senators fall behind three goals.

Washington opened the scoring at 2:32 after a couple bad defensive plays left Richards all alone out front. Ovechkin then scored his 43rd of the season on the power play midway through the period after taking a great pass from Marcus Johansson to bury it past Anderson. Just over two minutes later Backstrom made it 3-0.

The Senators best opportunity to get back in the game came with a 1:03 two-man advantage late in the period, but they were unable to create any great chances.

Notes: Ottawa RW Chris Neil was a late scratch due to illness. Ryan Dzingel played in his place. Mark Stone wore an 'A' in Neil's absence. Washington C Michael Latta, RW Stanislav Galiev and D Nate Schmidt were healthy scratches.

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press