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Matinee vs. Bruins starts long road stretch for Capitals

by Brian Hunter
CAPITALS (33-28-6) at BRUINS (40-23-3)


Last 10:
Washington 4-5-1; Boston 5-4-1

Season Series:
Third of four meetings, and the first at TD Garden. The teams split a pair at Verizon Center earlier in the season, with Mathieu Perreault's first NHL hat trick leading the Capitals to a 5-3 win on Jan. 24, a game Alex Ovechkin missed due to suspension, while Tim Thomas made 35 saves and Brad Marchand recorded a goal and an assist in the Bruins' 4-1 victory on Feb. 5.

Big Story:
Saturday's matinee marks the start of a busy weekend for Washington, as well as a stretch that sees the Capitals play six of their next seven on the road. They return to Verizon Center briefly for a date with the Maple Leafs on Sunday, then embark on a five-game trip that could go a long way in determining whether they win the Southeast Division for a fifth straight season, slip into the playoffs with a low seed in the Eastern Conference or miss the big dance altogether.

Team Scope:

Capitals: In the end, Washington managed to grab five of a possible 10 points out of a homestand that at times seemed like a disaster, but in reality could have been much worse. The Capitals were blanked in consecutive games by the Devils and Flyers, then lost in overtime to the Hurricanes, but they bounced back Thursday by claiming a 3-2 win over the Lightning on Ovechkin's OT goal. Trailing by one, Marcus Johansson forced the extra period by scoring with 3:58 left in regulation. Tomas Vokoun, in his first start since Feb. 22, stopped 24 shots.

"His message was basically just to man up -- play hard and play as a team," defenseman Karl Alzner said of the speech the Caps got from coach Dale Hunter after the second period. "We had a lot of one-on-one play and a lot of turnovers. It was one of the 'keys' that we had on the board, was no turnovers. He yelled at us pretty much for one of the first times that he has ever yelled at us, and the guys just snapped out of it."

It's also been a busy stretch for Boston, which plays 11 games in the first 19 days of March and is trying to rediscover the consistency it played with from November through January. The Bruins are still in full control of the Northeast, leading the Senators by three points with three games in hand, and they've strung together consecutive wins for the first time in nearly two months after Thursday's 3-1 win over the Sabres. Gregory Campbell scored late in the second to tie the score, then Johnny Boychuk and David Krejci added goals less than three minutes apart in the third.

"I wasn't quite sure of the exact date (of the last two-game winning streak) but I know, we all knew, that it's been quite a while," Campbell said. "As we approach the playoffs you're not going to find yourself going very far if you're winning one, losing one, so that's where the consistent factor comes in."

Who's Hot:
Ovechkin only had 2 points on the Capitals' homestand; however, they were both overtime goals to provide the only wins. … Krejci (5-2-7), Tyler Seguin (4-3-7) and Milan Lucic (1-5-6) all have five-game points streaks active for the Bruins. Jordan Caron has 3 goals and 3 assists during a three-game points streak.

Injury Report:
Washington remains without forward Nicklas Backstrom (concussion). … Marchand (shoulder), forward Daniel Paille (arm) and defenseman Andrew Ference (lower body) are all day-to-day for Boston. Goalie Tuukka Rask (lower body) is out 4-6 weeks. Forwards Rich Peverley (sprained MCL) and Nathan Horton (concussion) are also sidelined.

Stat Pack:
Ovechkin now has 12 career overtime goals, the most in the NHL since he came into the League in the 2005-06 season. … Caron had 3 goals and 2 assists in 30 games this season prior to his current points streak.

Puck Drop:
Washington moved back into eighth place with Thursday's win, but Winnipeg had the opportunity to reclaim the playoff position if it got at least a point out of Friday night's game in Calgary. Regardless, the Capitals will have two games in hand on the Jets when Saturday's action commences.
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