GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (50-20-6) at Washington Capitals (25-38-12).
TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EDT.
The Carolina Hurricanes hope their uneven recent play is finally behind them as they try to complete a rare three-game sweep of the Washington Capitals in the season series finale between the Southeast Division rivals.
Carolina, still chasing the Ottawa Senators for the best record in the Eastern Conference, is only 7-6-2 since March 8. But the Hurricanes have won consecutive one-goal games against the Capitals, whom they are playing for the fifth time in the past two weeks.
The Hurricanes squandered an early two-goal lead before posting a 4-3 shootout victory Wednesday. Matt Cullen scored the only goal in the shootout for Carolina, which won 6-5 in overtime Monday and has back-to-back wins for the first time since March 14-16.
"They play us tough every time," said Carolina center Eric Staal, who had a goal and an assist. "They're always working hard and finishing their checks. They were able to stay around tonight. It was just nice to get the win."
Staal had a goal and an assist Wednesday after being held off the scoresheet by the Capitals in the previous three games between the teams. The 21-year-old center, though, has just one goal and three assists in his last eight games.
Despite the consecutive losses, the Capitals have gotten at least one point from their last five games against the Hurricanes. They had posted wins of 3-1 and 5-1 on March 25 and 29, respectively.
Dainius Zubrus scored twice for the Capitals, including a power-play goal with 12:49 left in regulation to give Washington a 3-2 lead.
"What we thought would be a real negative of playing a team five times in seven games has become very entertaining," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said.
Alexander Ovechkin, who was stopped by Hurricanes goaltender Martin Gerber in the shootout, had a pair of assists as he drew closer to being the first rookie to score 100 points since Teemu Selanne and Joe Juneau both reached the mark in the 1992-93 season. Selanne set an NHL rookie record with 132 points, while Juneau totaled 102.
The 20-year-old Ovechkin, who leads all rookies with 48 goals and 98 points and is second to Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby with 50 assists, has three goals and six assists against the Hurricanes.
"He's by far I think the best rookie this season," said Staal, who had only 31 points his rookie season of 2003-04. "And he's going to be a great player for a long time."
STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 106 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Capitals - 62 points, 5th place, 44 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Staal, 43 goals and 94 points; Cory Stillman, 52 assists; Mike Commodore, 134 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 48 goals, 50 assists and 98 points; Chris Clark, 106 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 17.8 percent (89 for 500), 16th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (340 for 413), 15th. Capitals - Power play: 15.0 percent (68 for 454), 27th. Penalty killing: 78.6 percent (400 for 509), 28th.
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Gerber (37-12-4, 3 SO, 2.68 GAA); Cam Ward (13-8-2, 0, 3.71). Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (18-26-11, 0, 3.55); Brent Johnson (7-11-1, 1, 3.62).
SEASON SERIES: Capitals, 3-2-2.
LAST MEETING: April 5; Hurricanes, 4-3 (SO). At Washington D.C., Recchi scored a power-play goal for Carolina with 6:35 remaining to force overtime, and the teams did not have any fighting majors after totaling six from a pair of second-period fights Monday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 20-13-5 on the road; Capitals - 15-17-7 at home.