March 12 vs. Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center
Time: 9:30 p.m.
Radio: 104.7 FM, 1500 AM and Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 44-16-7
Anaheim Ducks 35-23-10
Washington finishes off its three-game California road trip on Sunday against the Ducks in Anaheim. The Caps head into Sunday's game seeking to salvage something from this trip to the west coast, which has been fruitless to this point of the journey.
For the first time in more than two years, the Capitals will carry a three-game regulation losing streak into Sunday's game. Washington dropped its third straight 4-2 decision on Saturday night, this time falling to the Kings in Los Angeles in the middle match of the trip, two nights after suffering the same fate at the hands of the Sharks in San Jose.
"Guys played hard tonight," said Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen in the wake of the loss to Los Angeles. "So we're disappointed that we didn't get better results. But I think a little adversity here at this time of the year is not a bad thing, so we'll keep pushing.
"Luckily we don't have to wait long for [Sunday]. We're not happy with the results, but let's find a way to get out of it together."
When you factor in the clocks moving forward one hour in the wee hours of Sunday morning for daylight savings time, Sunday's face-off against the Ducks comes 22 hours after that of Saturday's game against the Kings. That's the shortest turnaround between two tilts permitted by the collective bargaining agreement between the lords of the league and the NHL Players' Association.
But for the Caps, getting back on the horse right away might be just what they need right now.
In the midst of a stretch in which they're facing quality opponents night in and night out, the Caps played good enough to win in many ways on Saturday against the Kings. Washington scored first, it led twice, and its biggest failure in the game was likely not being able to add to either of those leads.
When Kings rookie Adrian Kempe made the brilliant play and shot that led to what would prove to be the game-winning goal near the midway point of the third period on Saturday, he also ended a drought of 14 minutes and 18 seconds during which his team was unable to record a shot on net. Puck possession was not an issue for the Capitals on Saturday, but creating quality scoring chances and finishing them was. For the fifth straight game, the Caps scored two or fewer goals. It's been more than six years since Washington endured a stretch of as many as five straight games without scoring more than two goals in any of them.
"I'd like to set the bar really high for this team," says Caps center Lars Eller, asked whether he believes his team is currently generating enough scoring chances, "so I think we can do a better job. But I think we generated enough to win today, or to score more than we did."
Saturday night's loss to the Kings is Washington's seventh straight in Los Angeles (0-5-2). The Capitals haven't won at Staples Center in more than a decade, since Dec. 14, 2005. Needing a win to halt its three-game slide, Washington now moves to a building where it hasn't tasted defeat in more than a decade.
The Capitals have earned six straight wins over the Ducks in Anaheim, winning four of those games by a single goal, including one in overtime and another in a shootout. Washington has not lost in Anaheim in more than a decade, since suffering a 3-0 whitewashing to J-S Giguere and the Ducks here on Dec. 11, 2002.
When the two teams met in Washington last month, the Caps jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead over Anaheim and held on for a 6-4 victory. That victory over the Ducks was Washington's sixth straight, and it came in the Capitals' final game prior to the start of their bye week. Since then, the Caps have won just five of 11 (5-5-1), and they've scored two or fewer goals in nine of those 11 contests.
Anaheim opens up a three-game homestand - and a stretch in which it will play six of its next seven games at home - with Sunday's game against the Capitals. The Ducks are returning two-game, back-to-back road trip in which they were able to come away with a split. Anaheim edged the Blackhawks in Chicago 1-0 on Wednesday and then absorbed a 4-3 setback at the hands of the Blues in St. Louis on Thursday.
The Ducks have won four of their last five games at Honda Center. St. Louis and Buffalo follow Washington into town later in the week. The Ducks own an impressive 21-8-3 record on home ice this season, as they take aim on a fifth straight playoff berth in the Western Conference.
Heading into Sunday's slate of NHL activity, the Ducks are tied with Calgary for second place in the NHL's Pacific Division, but they are just one point clear of fourth-place Edmonton, and the Oilers own a game in hand. Including Sunday's contest against the Caps, the Ducks have 14 games remaining. Two of those games are against Edmonton and two are against Calgary.
Anaheim hasn't been the prolific offensive team it was during the Bruce Boudreau era here, but the Ducks have been sturdy in their own end of the ice in the first season of Randy Carlyle's second tenure behind the Anaheim bench. The Ducks are 21st in the league in scoring, but are seventh best in goals against and third in penalty killing.