The last time the Phoenix Coyotes and Washington Capitals met, Alexander Ovechkin left an impression on perhaps the best player in NHL history.
Ovechkin will try for an encore Monday as he looks to help the Caps snap a four-game losing streak in a home matchup with the Coyotes.
The 2006 Calder Trophy winner, Ovechkin earned admiration from Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky during the Capitals' 6-1 win Jan. 16 in Phoenix. Ovechkin had two goals and an assist, and scored the goal of the NHL season when he flicked the puck into the net while rolling on the ice from his back to his chest.
"The best goal I ever scored," Ovechkin said afterward. "I just went down and shot."
That goal and Ovechkin's performance left Gretzky, first in league history in goals (894) and points (2,857), praising his talents.
"That was pretty sweet," Gretzky said. "You know, he's a phenomenal player, and he's been a tremendous influence in the game. It's great to see, because he is that good."
The Capitals (16-16-7) haven't been good lately as illness and a difficult road trip have battered the team. Washington has played four games in four cities over five days, losing all of them. A stomach flu has left the club short-handed, and the Caps are 1-6 since going 7-2 from the end of November to the middle of December.
Ovechkin was held scoreless in the Capitals' 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday, but he has 23 points in his last 14 games and is among the league leaders with 25 goals and 50 points.
Washington has lost three in a row at the Verizon Center, and begins a four-game homestand Monday.
This is the start of a five-game road trip for Phoenix (15-20-2), one of the league's worst teams away from home. The Coyotes are 4-12-1 on the road and are tied with Minnesota for the fewest road wins in the league.
The Coyotes, however, enter the trip with some momentum, having swept a home-and-home series with San Jose to give them consecutive victories for the first time in nearly a month. Phoenix won 3-2 at San Jose on Thursday, then pounded the Sharks 8-0 at home Saturday. The Coyotes hadn't taken two in a row since a three-game run from Nov. 25-Dec. 4.
"We've been a much better team the last 25 games," said Gretzky, whose club has rebounded from a 4-12 start. "We've had a couple of bad losses but we've played well during this stretch."
With Saturday's victory, Curtis Joseph tied Jacques Plante for fifth on the NHL career wins list with 437, and Jeremy Roenick had a hat trick for the Coyotes after scoring one goal in his first 31 games.
"I didn't think I had a goal left in me. There were times there when I was wondering if I had many games left," said Roenick, who hadn't scored since Oct. 23. "My confidence has been shot for a while. It doesn't help when you're on the fourth line and you're a healthy scratch."
Phoenix plays nine of its next 12 away from home. This is the Coyotes' first visit to Washington since winning 3-0 on Jan. 7, 2004.