The Washington Capitals have cooled off a bit after the best start in franchise history. They might have a good chance to start another run against a team that's experiencing some more prolonged struggles.
The Capitals will try to avoid a third consecutive defeat when they return home Tuesday night to face the Anaheim Ducks, losers of five of six.
A 2-1 defeat in Edmonton on Thursday prevented Washington from becoming the sixth NHL team to start 8-0-0. After that unusually quiet night from their offense, the Capitals scored four goals in their next game but gave up a season-high seven in a loss in Vancouver on Saturday.
Michal Neuvirth replaced Tomas Vokoun after one period with his team down 3-1 and was solid in the second, helping Washington pull even at 4-all after two. But he allowed three goals in a four-minute, seven-second span of the third in the 7-4 defeat.
"It's always a good reality check at the beginning of the year that you've got to be on every night," forward Mike Knuble said. "Teams are going to be ready for you. You're not going to sneak up on anybody."
The Capitals (7-2-0) have surrendered a pair of power-play goals in each loss after killing off 16 of 18 penalties during the final six games of their win streak - continuing the success of having the league's second-best penalty-killing unit last season (85.6 percent).
"The thing that really has to get better is our penalty killing, which was really good last year and is really not very good right now," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We have to correct that . It's put us in the hole in both games that we've lost. In games that we've won, we've still allowed (power-play) goals. We shore that up, and a lot of other things take care of themselves."
The Ducks, meanwhile, have converted 13.3 percent of their power-play chances this season. But they went 0 for 4 with the man advantage during back-to-back defeats to close October.
Bobby Ryan scored his team's only goal over those two contests in a 3-1 defeat to Columbus on Sunday, the fourth of Anaheim's seven-game road trip. It was the third time the Ducks (5-5-1) have scored one goal or fewer during their 1-4-1 stretch, and their 1.91 goals per game this season rank 29th.
"We seem to be overpassing and putting the puck in a different area where it's less of an angle or less of an opportunity to score," coach Randy Carlyle said.
Carlyle's team scored six goals during its most recent matchup with Washington but gave up seven in a home defeat Feb. 16. Alexander Semin rallied Washington to that victory by scoring twice in the final 8:23 to complete his seventh career hat trick.
Semin has six goals in three career games against Anaheim, but missed the most recent meeting at the Verizon Center on Dec. 15. The Ducks won that game 2-1 on Ryan Getzlaf's overtime goal.
That was the Capitals' lone loss in their last four games against Anaheim.