The team's longest losing streak of the season is beginning to take its toll on the Washington Capitals. They'll try to avoid their fifth straight defeat when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.
Washington won four of five games from Nov. 4-13 - its best stretch of the season - but its worst has immediately followed. The Capitals have lost twice to Boston - in a shootout and in overtime - during their skid, along with a defeat to Carolina and most recently a 4-2 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.
Washington (8-7-6) jumped out to a two-goal lead off scores from Matt Pettinger and Jakub Klepis, but the Thrashers scored four unanswered goals for the win. Making matters worse for the Capitals, forwards Donald Brashear and Brian Sutherby received league suspensions due to their parts in several fights that broke out in the game's final minutes.
There were 176 combined penalty minutes in the contest, including 144 in the final 1:02. Brashear was suspended for three games by the NHL on Thursday, while Sutherby and Atlanta's Scott Mellanby were automatically suspended one game.
Capitals coach Glen Hanlon was fined $30,000 and Atlanta coach Bob Hartley $10,000.
"It was a frustrating game," Capitals defenseman Ben Clymer said. "We weren't happy with the way things were going with us and that's what happens. That's part of the game."
Toronto (12-7-4) has also struggled lately, losing three of its last four following a season-high four-game winning streak. The Leafs rallied from a two-goal deficit Wednesday, but then allowed three straight goals in a 7-4 loss to Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo.
"We got down and battled back," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "We understand we have to win games, but I like to see us play like that."
Darcy Tucker scored twice in the defeat to extend his scoring streak to three games and boost his goal total to 15 - tied for third in the NHL. One of Tucker's scores came on the power play, as the Leafs have scored two extra-man goals in each of their last two contests.
Andrew Raycroft made 22 saves Wednesday in his second start since being sidelined three games due to a strained groin, but dropped to 10-5-2 with a 2.85 goals-against average on the season.
The Maple Leafs have also been without captain Mats Sundin for six straight contests because of an elbow injury. He may return Saturday versus the Boston Bruins.
Washington left wing Alexander Semin, third on the team with 17 points, has missed back-to-back games with a shoulder injury. Alexander Ovechkin is healthy, though, and will look to add to his team-leading 13 goals and 23 points. He recorded five goals and an assist in four matchups with the Maple Leafs in his 2005-06 rookie season, helping Washington take three of those four meetings.
Prior to losing the 2005-06 season series to the Capitals, the Leafs had lost just one of the previous 13 meetings between the clubs.