February 1 vs. Boston Bruins at Verizon Center
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Radio: 104.7 FM, 1500 AM and Capitals Radio 24/7
Boston Bruins 26-21-6
Washington Capitals 33-11-6
After tearing through the January portion of the 2016-17 schedule with a 12-2-1 record, the Caps move into February part of the slate on Wednesday when they host the Boston Bruins for the second and final time this season at Verizon Center.
Both the Capitals and the Bruins were in action on Tuesday night, playing for the first time after the NHL's four-day All-Star break. The Caps dropped a 3-2 decision to the Islanders in Brooklyn on Tuesday, just the fourth regulation loss in Washington's last 28 games (20-4-4). Three of those last four regulation defeats have come by the margin of a single goal.
"I thought it was pretty good," says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom of his team's first game back after the break. "I thought actually it was a good game with good speed, and two teams that really wanted to win. I thought they capitalized on their chances that they got, especially in the third.
"They're a good team. They played pretty tight in the neutral zone, and it makes it hard for us to get through there. It could have gone either way today, but obviously they won."
The Caps got on the board first in Tuesday's loss to the Isles, and it was still anyone's game going into the third period, tied at 1-1. Neither side had much time or space with which to operate in the offensive zone, and shots from the interior were tough to come by for both sides, too.
New York's Ryan Strome scored at 6:31 of the third period to break the deadlock, finishing a play that started with a Caps turnover behind their own net. The Isles added a Johnny Boychuk empty-netter with 68 seconds remaining, and that turned out to be the game-winner when Alex Ovechkin scored on a point blast less than a half a minute later.
"As a line, we thought we were having a good game," says Caps winger Daniel Winnik. "But we can't give up a goal to put them in the lead, 2-1. In the end, that's what killed us and we can't let that happen. So that's where we we've got to be better as a line."
Washington has played six of its last seven games on the road, going 4-2-1 during that stretch. Now the Capitals return home to Verizon Center, where they've won seven straight games. The Caps' last loss on home ice was a 2-1 shootout setback at the hands of the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 29. Washington has earned at least a point in nine straight games (8-0-1) on home ice.
Only twice this season have the Caps lost consecutive games in regulation, and it hasn't happened in two months. Washington's last set of consecutive games without a point came on Nov. 26-Dec. 1.
The Caps will try to keep that streak rolling on Wednesday against the Bruins.
"The night you love to hate, you know," says Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov. "It's Rivalry Night. It's best. After a loss, we want to show a response."
"That's what we're trying to do, and that's our team mentality. [Wednesday] is going to be a different game. We lost [Tuesday], but we'll recover and get ready [for Wednesday]."
Washington's seven-game home winning streak is its longest since a 12-game streak last season. The Caps have outscored the opposition by a combined total of 35-9 and they've authored three shutouts over the life of the streak.
Braden Holtby is expected to start for the Capitals on Wednesday. He is 15-5-1 with five shutouts, a 1.68 GAA and a .934 save pct. on home ice this season.
After enduring a four-game slide (0-3-1) in the middle of the month, the Bruins have won three straight. Most recently, they downed the Tampa Bay Lightning at home on Tuesday night, in their own first game back from the All-Star break. Each of the three victories during Boston's current modest streak has been achieved by an identical 4-3 score, with the first of the trio coming in overtime.
Boston has now strung together three straight victories on four separate occasions this season, but the Bruins have yet to win as many as four in a row in 2016-17. The B's previous three-game winning streak came in the first three games of December, and that run ended when the Caps took a 4-3 overtime decision over the Bruins in Washington on Dec. 7 in the first meeting between the two clubs this season.
The Caps carried a 3-0 lead into the third period of that Dec. 7 game, but Boston roared back to tie it on three goals in the final frame. Backstrom supplied the game-winning goal for Washington in overtime, enabling the Caps to save face after squandering that three-goal lead late in the contest.
Although the Bruins are tied for second in the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators, the Sens hold a whopping five games in hand on Boston. The Bruins have played a league-high 53 games to date this season, and Boston's three-point cushion over fourth-place Toronto is shortened by the fact that the Leafs also hold five games in hand on the Bruins.
Boston has been better on the road (14-9-6) than at home (12-12-0) this season, and the Bruins' total of 29 road games this season matches New Jersey for the most in the league.