Jan. 31 vs. Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Washington Capitals 34-12-5
Ottawa Senators 18-23-9
The Caps conclude the January portion of their 2019-20 schedule on Friday night in Ottawa when they pay a visit to the Senators in the NHL's other nation's capital city. The game is Washington's only trip to Ottawa this season.
Washington will be looking to get back on the winning track after suffering a 5-4 loss to the Nashville Predators in the District on Wednesday night, a defeat that halted the Capitals' winning streak at four.
Down 3-1 in the first period, the Caps rallied to take a 4-3 lead into the third. But for the second time in as many games against Nashville this season, the Preds stormed from behind in the final frame to hand the Caps a regulation loss. Washington has lost eight straight (0-7-1) to Nashville dating back to March 18, 2016, and it has been outscored by a combined total of 41-23 in those eight losses.
Wednesday's game was a sloppy affair on both sides, replete with penalties, mistakes, turnovers and gift goals from both teams. Braden Holtby's turnover led directly to Ryan Johansen's game-tying shorthanded goal in the third, the eighth shorthanded goal the Caps have permitted this season, most in the league.
Preds defenseman Yannick Weber played just 7:39 on the night - the lowest ice time figure for any of Nashville's 18 skaters - and took just three shifts in the third period. But his seeing-eye shot from the right point found purchase behind Holtby with 4:37 left, and Weber's first goal in more than a year - a span of 76 games - stood up as the game-winner. Along with Jarred Tinordi, who scored his first career goal in the game, Weber's goal was one of two from Nashville defensemen who entered the game with goose eggs under the goal column.
"It was pretty self-inflicted," says Caps center Nic Dowd. "I thought we started out the game really well actually, and then dug ourselves into a little bit of a hole. Obviously special teams were again a factor, so we'll check out what we did wrong and fix some things."
For the first time since October, the Caps have scored a power-play goal in five of their last six games. On the other side of that coin, they have allowed a league-leading total of eight shorthanded goals against this season, with half of that total coming in their first 10 games of January. Washington's power play unit has accounted for seven goals in January, but it is a net plus-3 for the month because of the shorthanded goals against.
Both the Caps and the Preds scored on the power play in Wednesday's game, and Johansen's shorthanded goal tilted the scales of special teams - and ultimately the game - to Nashville. Holtby was trying to catch the Preds in a line change by making a quick pass to a teammate at the opposite blueline when Johansen picked it off in neutral ice, skated in and scored.
"The goalie playing the puck up [ice] on our power play is not part of our system," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "It's not part of our design of how we break pucks out, so that's an unforced error - one of many that we had in the game. I'm sure he'll be the first one to tell you that he'd like to have that play back. That's the way it goes."
"I just didn't see [Johansen] there," rues Holtby. "It's just bad awareness there. I was trying to do too much I guess, get into the play somehow, and it's just a play that can't happen. It killed us."
The Caps are 7-3-0 in January, and they've typically bounced back well from difficult defeats such as the one they experienced on Wednesday. They'll get the chance to do so again on Friday against the Senators.
Earlier in the month, Ottawa visited the Caps in the District in the first of three meetings between the two teams this season, a 6-1 Washington win on Jan. 7. That game came in the exact middle of what turned out to be a nine-game Ottawa slide (0-5-4), but the Sens have been playing better since that game more than three weeks ago.
Ottawa comes into Friday's game with two wins in its last three games, and with points in six of seven contests (2-1-4) since falling to the Caps in D.C. earlier in the month. Most recently, the Sens snapped a seven-game road slide (0-4-3) with a 5-2 win over the Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday. The win over the Sabres was the Sens' first road win in nearly two months, since they downed the Oilers in Edmonton by the same score on Dec. 4.
In the win over the Sabres, Ottawa struck for three power-play goals and tacked on a pair of late empty-netters. It was the first time in more than 11 months that Ottawa managed a trio of extra-man tallies in the same game; the Sens scored three times on the power play in a 4-3 overtime win over the Jets in Winnipeg on Feb. 16, 2019.