January 23 vs. Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 31-9-6
Carolina Hurricanes 21-18-7
After finishing off a 2-0-1 road trip that included a 2-0-0 run during the Mentors' Trip portion of the journey, the Capitals return home for just long enough to do some laundry and to host the Carolina Hurricanes for the first time this season. The Hurricanes make the first of two visits to the District this season on Monday night at Verizon Center.
For the Caps, Monday's game also starts a set of games on back-to-back nights. Washington travels to Ottawa immediately after taking on Carolina; the Caps visit the Sens on Tuesday night.
Washington comes into Monday's game on the heels of a 4-3 overtime win over the Stars in Dallas on Saturday night. The victory was the Caps' first in Texas since Oct. 25, 2008, and just the fourth win ever earned by a Washington team in Dallas. The Capitals had dropped nine straight games (0-8-1) to the Stars prior to Saturday's win. The victory in Dallas pushes Washington's points streak to 13 straight games (11-0-2). The Capitals' last loss in regulation was a 4-3 setback to the Islanders in Brooklyn on Dec. 27.
The Caps trailed 3-1 heading into the third period of Saturday's game against the Stars, but rallied to tie the game at 3-3 on two power-play goals just 128 seconds apart in the early minutes of the third period. Jay Beagle's 10th goal of the season won it for Washington just 19 seconds into overtime, making Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer a winner for the ninth time this season (9-1-2).
"It's pretty apparent we didn't have our best stuff tonight early in the game," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. "But we were able to draw a couple of penalties, and I think we just stayed ready for our moment to kind of claw our way back into it. The power play came up with a couple of big ones in the third and we were able to tie it up. The third period was pretty intense then. Sometimes those games where you don't play very well but you gut one out anyways, those are big team builders. I think that's going to be a big one for us in the future."
Playing in his 700th career NHL game, Niskanen picked up three assists against the Stars, the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2005. With 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) on the season, Niskanen is tied with John Carlson for the team scoring lead among defensemen. The two Caps blueliners are tied for 16th in the league in scoring among defensemen.
Washington has scored the game's first goal in 10 straight contests, and in 33 of its 46 games this season. In Saturday's game against the Stars, Andre Burakovsky became just the fourth NHL player in the last 60 years to score the game's first goal in four consecutive games.
Special teams were instrumental in delivering Saturday's win. The Washington power play went 2-for-2 on the night, and is now clicking at a 20.3% rate on the season. The Caps are 8-for-16 (50%) with the extra man in their last seven games, and they've scored at least one power-play goal in each of their last four.
Washington penalty killers successfully snuffed out a five-on-three Dallas power play of 83 seconds in duration in the game's first period, and the Caps killed off a Dmitry Orlov double minor late in the second period as well.
"The kill was really good all night," says Niskanen. "Two of us, like dummies, shot it over the glass. So good job by the guys that were out there killing that off. And then later in the game, momentum changers, I think. We at least kept the game within reach to give us a chance to tie it up. So good job by the killers."
Beagle matched his single-season career high in goals and in points (20) while Grubauer matched his career high in wins. Caps center Nicklas Backstrom picked up a pair of assists to run his scoring streak to nine straight games (four goals, 12 assists), just one game shy of his career best. Backstrom also moved into a tie for sixth place in the NHL's scoring race.
Alex Ovechkin scored the first of those power-play goals, the 204th power-play goal of his career. That ties him with Wayne Gretzky for 15th place on the NHL's all-time list in power-play goals, one behind Joe Sakic (205) for 14th place.
Since their aforementioned loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn last month, the Caps are 4-0-2 in their last six games against Metropolitan Division opponents.
Carolina got warm over a 17-game stretch from early December to the middle of this month, going 10-5-2 during that span to insert itself into the outskirts of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But the Hurricanes have now dropped three games in succession, getting outscored by a combined total of 14-4 in that trio of setbacks.
With Philadelphia sitting idle on its bye week for most of this week, the Canes had a golden opportunity to overtake the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference standings. But the Canes lost all three of their games while Philly rested, leaving them still a point behind the Flyers heading into Sunday's slate of NHL activity.
While the Canes have been excellent (15-5-1) on home ice this season, they've scuffled on the road, winning just six of 25 games thus far (6-13-6). Carolina has dropped five of its last six games on the road (1-5-0), and the Canes are coming into the District on the heels of a pair of road losses to the Blue Jackets in Columbus.
After falling 4-1 in Ohio's capital city on Tuesday, the Canes came home and saw their four-game home winning streak come to a halt with a 7-1 pounding at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. A night later, they went right back to Columbus and lost a tough 3-2 decision despite outshooting the Jackets by 37-20.
Back on Nov. 12 in Raleigh, the Canes drubbed the Capitals by a 5-1 count, handing Washington its worst loss of the season to date. The Caps returned to Carolina on Dec. 16 and managed a 4-3 shootout win over the Hurricanes.