January 21 vs. Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 30-9-6
Dallas Stars 19-20-8
Washington finishes off a three-game road trip on Saturday night in Dallas against the Stars. After seeing their nine-game winning streak come to a stop in an 8-7 overtime loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Monday, the Caps dropped the Blues in St. Louis by a 7-3 count on Thursday.
All 12 forwards registered at least a point and Braden Holtby made 22 saves to earn his 22nd victory of the season over the Blues. The win vaulted Washington back into the top spot in both the Metropolitan Division and the overall NHL standings, and the Caps are now the sole remaining team in the NHL with a single digit total in the regulation loss column; they have nine.
"I think we're an old story," says Holtby, "which is fine with us. We have one goal, and the sideshow really doesn't matter. It's hard to win in this league and it's hard to win a championship. So we're just trying to take the games as they are in order to give ourselves a chance and not really looking at streaks, standings and points. I think we know that what really matters is how well you're bonded as a group and how well prepared you are come playoff time."
With their dads and mentors along for the ride, the Caps are now seeking to get two points in one of the buildings where that task has traditionally proved to be extremely difficult over the years. The Capitals come into Dallas on a serious roll, with a 17-2-3 record in their last 22 games. They've also scored seven goals in consecutive games for the first time since 1993 and they've scored five or more goals in five straight games for the first time since 2010.
Perhaps most importantly, the Caps have scored the game's first goal in nine straight games. They might want to make it 10 on Saturday against the Stars, because playing from behind has long been a losing proposition for the Caps against Dallas.
The Capitals have owned a lead for all of three minutes and 35 seconds of the last 480 minutes of hockey they've played against Dallas, and they are 0-8-1 in their last nine meetings with the Stars overall. The Caps have dropped four straight games at American Airlines Center.
"It's hard to score in this league," says Caps coach Barry Trotz, "but it's a lot easier and it's a lot less draining when you score first. You're not chasing the game. There's a lot more demand on every detail when you're chasing the game, because if you give up another one it's a bigger hole.
"We've been much better this year in the starts. We've been able to manage it and we've been getting some timely goaltending. We have to clean up some things in our own end right now, but we haven't had a lot of practice time. We haven't had any kind of practice where it has a lot of substance lately just because of our heavy schedule.
"I think right now there are some guys who are mentally fatigued a little bit. It's that time of year, for every team. I think that's why the goals are up a little bit around the league. Hopefully the dads can give us some rejuvenation here and we'll go into Dallas. I don't know the last time we won in Dallas, but everybody tells me it's like never. So we'll go into Dallas and see if we can put a good game together for the dads against Dallas, who has had our number for a long time."
Saturday's game is the Caps' 17th visit to the state of Texas since the old Minnesota North Stars moved south in 1993. The Caps are 3-13 in those games, and their last win here came more than eight years ago, on Oct. 25, 2008. That win was achieved in overtime, courtesy an Alexander Semin game-winner.
Ken Klee provided the overtime game-winner in Washington's previous victory here on Dec. 29, 2001. The only time the Capitals have ever won a regulation game here in Dallas was more than two decades ago, on Oct. 17, 1995. That's when the Stars were still playing their home games at Reunion Arena.
Reunion met the wrecking ball in 2009.
It's not like the Caps have fared much better against the Stars at home, either. Washington's most recent home ice win against Dallas came on Nov. 30, 2006. The Capitals are 4-20-2 against Dallas in their last 26 meetings, and only one of those four Washington wins was achieved in regulation.
Dallas is returning home from a three-game trip to face the league's three New York teams. The Stars won only the middle match of that journey, taking a wild 7-6 decision from the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. The Stars owned a 7-3 lead going into the third period of that contest, but they yielded three goals in less than five minutes in the early part of the final frame.
Since going 4-0-1 over a five game stretch wrapped around the NHL's holiday break last month, the Stars are 3-6-1. Dallas has surrendered 37 goals over that 10-game stretch and it has permitted 18 goals in its last four games.
The Stars have been giving up more shots on goal than usual as of late. Dallas surrenders an average of 30.3 shots on goal per game, putting it in the middle of the pack in that department. But the Stars have permitted 30 or more shots on goal in 12 of their last 17 games.
Through their first 47 games of the season, the Stars have been dented for an average of 3.13 goals per game. But they've allowed an average of 3.78 goals per contest since the calendar flipped to 2017 three weeks ago.