Dec. 28 vs. Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Washington Capitals 27-7-5
Carolina Hurricanes 22-14-2
The Caps travel south to Raleigh for the first time this season on Saturday night, when they will take on the Hurricanes for the second time this season and the first time since the opening weekend of the campaign back in early October.
Washington and Carolina are two of the 10 teams in the league that will come right out of the NHL's three-day holiday break and jump directly into a set of back-to-back games. The Caps hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena on Friday night, coming away with a 2-1 overtime win, while the Hurricanes were in New York absorbing a 5-3 loss to the Rangers.
The Caps come out of the three-day holiday break facing a trio of Metropolitan Division opponents, starting with a Friday-Saturday set of back-to-backs against Columbus and Carolina. Washington went into the break on a sour note, taking a 7-3 drubbing from the Bruins in Boston on Monday. But the Caps finally figured a way to slip past the Jackets for the first time in three December meetings, and in doing so they maintained their status as the only team in the league that has yet to suffer successive regulation setbacks at any point.
Down 1-0 heading into the third period of Friday's game with Columbus, the Caps got a rebound goal from Carl Hagelin to tie the game early in the third. In the extra session, they took the play to the visitors, hemming them in their end and drawing a penalty about midway through the overtime.
Video: CBJ@WSH: Oshie puts home PPG to win the game in OT
With 1:47 left, T.J. Oshie banged home a rebound of a Nicklas Backstrom shot on a Washington power play, halting an 0-for-20 power play slide for the Caps, a skid that dates back to a Dec. 11 game against Boston. Oshie's overtime goal made a winner of goaltender Ilya Samsonov (27 saves) and the Capitals, who played without defenseman Michal Kempny (illness) and with illness-ridden Radko Gudas in the lineup and gutting his way through just over 11 minutes on the clock.
"In the first [period], we weren't great," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "But I think we got better as the game went on, as expected after a three-day break there."
Friday's victory moves Washington to 5-6-1 in games in which it trails after 40 minutes of play, the best record in that situation in the league this season. The Caps improved to 5-1-1 on the front end of back-to-back games this season, and they have won five straight and are 5-0-1 overall on the back half of back-to-back games.
Now, they'll take on the Hurricanes for the first time in almost three months, and for the first of three meetings between the two Metropolitan Division rivals in a span of the next 17 days.
"We haven't seen them in a while," says Oshie of the Hurricanes. "We know how they play. They always play hard against us; they're very hard to play against. They're a lot like [Columbus] where they've got a lot of guys that buzz, and they forecheck hard, they can skate well, and when we make turnovers they can make plays.
"Hopefully [Friday] was a good step in the right direction of how we have to handle the puck, and how we have to crash the net. It's going to be a tough one in Carolina there, it has been for the recent past. So we've got to get some rest and get ready to play a good game [Saturday]."
Carolina traveled up to Manhattan on Friday, and it faced the Rangers in its own first game back from the NHL's holiday break. Carolina scored first, but New York rallied with four unanswered goals - including a pair of power-play goals from Mika Zibanejad - to take a 4-1 lead late in the second.
The Canes scored twice to pull within a goal, but were saddled with their third straight regulation loss, their longest down streak since they dropped four straight in regulation from Nov. 2-9. Carolina has yielded 17 goals during the life of its current three-game losing streak.
James Reimer was in net for the Canes on Friday night in the Big Apple, so the Capitals will almost certainly see Petr Mrazek between the pipes on Saturday.