Oct. 12 vs. Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, Fan 106.7
Washington Capitals 2-1-2
Dallas Stars 1-3-1
The Caps conclude a two-game road trip on Saturday night in Texas when they take on the Dallas Stars for the second time this week, and for the final time this season. On Tuesday night in Washington, the Stars rallied from a 2-1 third-period deficit to take a 3-2 overtime victory over Washington. Tyler Seguin's goal in the first minute of overtime gave the Stars their first victory of the season, salvaging what had been a winless three-game trip to that point.
Washington lugs a three-game losing streak (0-1-2) into Dallas, having opened the trip with an ugly 6-5 loss to the Predators in Nashville on Thursday night. The Caps led four different times in that game, but failed to claim a point for the first time this season after letting a third-period lead slip away for the third consecutive game.
In two of those three straight setbacks - including Thursday's game in Music City - the Caps led by two goals heading into the final frame. But Nashville struck for four goals in the third, twice tallying on consecutive shots in a matter of seconds.
Five games into the season, the Caps might have an unblemished record if not for their third-period performances. Only New Jersey (nine) has allowed more goals in the final frame than Washington (eight). Half of the 16 goals the Caps have allowed on the season have come in the third.
Difficult stretches such as these always stand out more early in the season when the sample sizes are small. The Caps have played five one-goal games to date, and they've never been up by more than two or down by more than two goals in any game. And they haven't been down by two in any game since the first period of their season opener in St. Louis on Oct. 2.
"For the most part, if you play the right way it should work itself out," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "But we would need some bounces to go our way to end up 5-0 [at this point]. We're in every single game and we're competitive.
"Now we're missing quite a few players from our last couple years teams and we have to figure out how to win with this group. If it just happened overnight, then maybe you wouldn't have gained as much as a group. Right now, that's what we're learning - how to win and learning how to lose with the players that we have in our room.
"I called a timeout and I really liked our response after that. We changed the momentum of the game, and we get ourselves back in it, make a push to get ahead and we're able to not execute again to where they're able to convert. It's a combination of different things. But when you have some turnover in your room, that's part of it, is figuring out how to win, how to win as a team."
All that said, they're also conscious of the fact that they're leaving standings points on the table, and points in October count the same amount as points in March.
"We feel like the last three games that we should have had it in the bag," says Caps center Lars Eller. "We played well for the majority of those games, put ourselves in a good position and we almost take a step back instead of staying at the level we are at. We can do better and we just have to learn from it."
Dallas enters Saturday's game with one win in five outings (1-3-1) this season, and that victory came on Tuesday night in Washington at the Capitals' expense. The Caps turned in a dominant first 20 minutes in that game, almost certainly their best period of the young season to date, but they were never able to build more than a one-goal lead.
The Stars had only 11 shots on net in the first 40 minutes of Tuesday's game, but they had 11 more shots in the first eight minutes of the third, while holding Washington to none. They tied the game during that span, then took their first lead of the night minutes later on Nicholas Caamano's first NHL goal.
Nick Backstrom's 6-on-5 goal in the game's final minute secured a point for the Caps, but Tyler Seguin's goal in the first minute of overtime gave Dallas its first win of the season.
While the Caps were losing to the Preds in Nashville on Thursday night, Dallas came out on the short end of a 3-2 shootout decision against Calgary in the opener of a brief two-game homestand. The Stars also lost a third-period lead to the Flames in that one; Dallas was up 1-0 heading into the final frame, and captain Jamie Benn doubled that advantage just nine seconds into the third. But the Flames rallied to tie it at 2-2 before the first television timeout, and Calgary prevailed in the skills competition.
After Saturday's game against the Capitals, the Stars head east on a four-game road trip that starts on Monday afternoon in Buffalo against the Sabres.