The lights were on, seats were filled and bona fide NHL players were skating around the ice at PNC Arena. But there were no intentionally blocked shots, no fights and only a few players who showed genuine interest in a regular season game that felt like one in name only.

The Washington Capitals emerged with their third straight victory Thursday night, beating the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2, in a contest that will have no bearing on how this franchise proceeds after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

All three members of Washington’s most consistent line tallied goals, netminder Braden Holtby stopped 36 of 38 shots and a team that spent most of this season underachieving put together a three-game winning streak for the second time in less than a month. Except it mattered little considering the Capitals’ faint postseason hopes ended Wednesday.

The backdrop to Thursday night’s game was unlike any Washington has experienced the past seven years. The Capitals knew they were playing out the string, and so did Carolina, which learned it would miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the eighth time in 10 seasons Tuesday after a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers.

Washington spent the morning coming to grips with reality; the team was mostly silent during a pregame skate. Coach Adam Oates gave a speech about “being a pro” and playing hard for the fans who paid money to watch them. And the Capitals responded with a performance in which they seemed to care just a bit more than the Hurricanes, who were playing their final home game of the season.

The half-empty atmosphere at PNC Arena reflected the stakes in what amounted to an exhibition for these former Southeast Division rivals. Neither team appeared interested in getting injured with so little on the line, and hits were kept to a minimum.