The Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets have been stepping up their games as the race for playoff spots intensifies.
The Capitals are seemingly always at their best against the Jets.
In a matchup of teams riding three-game win streaks, Washington looks to continue its dominance over the Jets in Saturday night’s matchup in Winnipeg.
After a 3-6-0 stretch that dropped it into the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot, Washington (39-23-10) has rebounded with three straight wins to build a five-point lead over Boston for the first wild card with 10 games to play. The Capitals’ 88 points match slumping Pittsburgh’s total for third place in the Metropolitan Division, though the Penguins hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"We know that when we play our game, we can be successful," Braden Holtby said after stopping 28 shots in Thursday’s 3-2 win over Minnesota. "That’s a positive for us going into this last stretch."
The Jets (36-23-12) are also in good spirits after beating St. Louis 2-1 in a shootout Thursday. They’re holding down the West’s second wild card, two points up on Los Angeles and a point behind Minnesota for the first wild card.
Drew Stafford, acquired from Buffalo before last month’s trade deadline, tied the game in the third period with his fifth goal in eight games this month.
”From our standpoint, the way we prepared and the energy we came out with, and how physical we were on the puck, I think we’re going to need to play that type of hockey down the stretch to get in (the playoffs)," said forward Andrew Ladd, who scored the shootout winner.
The Jets have benefited from a 7-1-1 record in Winnipeg since Feb. 8, but have had no luck in their series with Washington.
The Capitals have totaled 30 regulation goals in winning seven straight over the Jets. It’s Washington’s longest active win streak against one team and Winnipeg’s longest active skid against any opponent. The Jets have managed one point during the slide.
Not surprisingly, Alex Ovechkin has powered the Capitals’ success against the Jets, though he’s not doing it alone.
Ovechkin has eight goals and six assists during the winning streak while Nicklas Backstrom has four goals and seven assists. Troy Brouwer has contributed seven goals and an assist in that stretch while Marcus Johansson has a goal to go with 10 assists.
In a 5-1 home win over the Jets on Feb. 19, Backstrom scored two of Washington’s season-high three power-play goals and assisted on John Carlson’s man-advantage score. Ovechkin and Brouwer each tallied a goal and an assist.
Ovechkin is coming off a two-goal game against the Wild to increase his league-leading total to 47. He has eight goals in as many games this month.
"Hopefully we just keep playing the same way and just keep grinding out," said defenseman Brooks Orpik, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury.
Holtby, who has posted a 1.62 goals-against average in the last three contests, has started each game of the win streak against the Jets, recording a 1.55 GAA with a pair of shutouts.
Ondrej Pavelec has posted a 1.30 GAA in starting each game of Winnipeg’s win streak. However, he’s also started each game during the skid against Washington, compiling a 4.03 GAA.