Facing the possibility of playing a second straight game without
Alex Ovechkin and with their No. 1 goaltender struggling, a visit
from the Montreal Canadiens may be just what the Washington
The slumping Caps try to shut out the Canadiens for a fourth
straight time Friday night at the Verizon Center.
Washington (29-26-5) has gone 3-7-2 in its last 12 and is in
10th place in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals stumbled home
after dropping the last three games on their four-game road trip,
capping the stretch with a 5-2 loss to Ottawa on Wednesday.
Ovechkin missed the game with a lower-body injury and his status
for Friday is uncertain.
The absence of its leading scorer forced Washington to play
without its top two offensive producers, as Nicklas Backstrom is
still out due to a concussion. The Capitals got off to yet another
slow start, falling behind 2-0 after the opening 20 minutes, and
they’ve been outscored 9-0 in the first period of the last six
Washington cut the deficit to 4-2 midway through the third
period but couldn’t overcome the poor start.
“You can take things from it, but at the end of the day you need
to have a better start, have a better effort and get two points,”
forward Troy Brouwer said. “That’s all that matters right now.
We’ve got to find a way to get points and start climbing the
Washington’s goaltending has been shaky of late, with Tomas
Vokoun getting pulled in each of the last two games. He allowed two
goals on seven shots against Carolina on Monday and four goals on
11 shots against Ottawa.
Coach Dale Hunter was disappointed with Vokoun on Wednesday, but
he also wasn’t pleased with the defense around him.
“If someone’s not playing well as they should, you need to block
more shots and cover up for him,” Hunter said.
Despite Vokoun’s troubles, he and Michael Neuvirth each posted a
shutout in the two meetings with Montreal this season. The Capitals
haven’t given up a goal to the Canadiens since the 3:28 mark of the
second period of a 4-2 Washington victory March 15, blanking
Montreal three consecutive times since.
They’ll try to extend that streak against a Canadiens team that
has lost four of five while totaling one goal in the last two
games. Montreal lost 3-0 to Dallas on Tuesday.
The Canadiens (24-27-10) have allowed the first goal in each of
their last five games. They went 0 for 4 on the power play and are
near the bottom of the NHL at 13.8 percent.
“We were reluctant at times to shoot it,” coach Randy
Cunneyworth said. “That’s what a power play has to do. We had
plenty of opportunity, but we just couldn’t pull it together to
Montreal was without center Tomas Plekanec due to the flu
Tuesday. His status for Friday is unclear.
The Canadiens, opening a three-game trip, have won three
straight away from home. However, with one of the worst records in
the East, they know their time to make a move is dwindling.
“If we could point to one or two things, we could fix it,”
center Lars Eller said. “But it’s not one player, one thing or the
power play – it’s a lot of things. … We play like this, we’re not
even close to winning.”