The Washington Capitals snapped a four-game losing streak with a return to form defensively. They’ll try for a similar effort as they look to avoid a fifth consecutive loss away from home.
Doing so will mean cooling off the Montreal Canadiens, one of the top defensive teams in the league that’s seeking its fifth straight victory Saturday.
Washington’s 2.50 goals-against average has it among the NHL leaders, but it gave up 17 non-shootout goals during an 0-3-1 stretch. The Capitals (25-14-9) bounced back with a 4-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, limiting the Penguins to 27 shots and 16 over the final two periods.
Washington is 21-2-2 when allowing two or fewer goals.
Braden Holtby recorded his career-high fifth shutout, Alex Ovechkin scored twice and Nicklas Backstrom raised his team-leading point total to 50 with two assists.
"We have a lot of big guys on our team that can play a skill game, play a physical game, play a defensive game," forward Eric Fehr told the Capitals’ official website. "We like to think we can adapt to anything, especially with our d-men. They can play strong defensively, and they can get up the ice and be really effective."
Ovechkin’s has 13 goals in his last 13 games and moved into the league lead with 29.
"When Alex is determined, the way he is lately, I think he just creates so much good offense," coach Barry Trotz said. "He’s dangerous every night. You look at the stat sheet, whether he scores or not, he’s got 10 shots. There’s guys in the league who go a month without 10 shots sometimes."
Ovechkin will be tested against Montreal (31-13-3), which has allowed three goals over the past three games. The Canadiens beat the New York Rangers 1-0 on Thursday behind Carey Price’s 24 saves and Max Pacioretty’s goal late in the third period.
The Canadiens have gone 14-3-1 in their last 18 to pull within one point of the Eastern Conference lead.
Price is 12-2-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average in that span. His 2.09 GAA is a career best and puts him among the NHL leaders.
"I am just worried about doing my job – stopping the next shot," Price said. "It’s fun to win games 6-5, but if we want to be successful, we’re going to have to really bear down on those low-scoring checking games."
Pacioretty is among the league leaders with 22 goals, but has scored once in 18 career matchups with Washington – his lowest total against any East team.
The Capitals might be playing in the perfect place as they look to end their road woes. They’ve won seven in a row at the Bell Centre, with four of the victories being shutouts, and are 8-0-1 in the past nine there. Washington has taken the last two such meetings by a 10-1 score.
The Canadiens won the only game against Washington this season 2-1 in a shootout Oct. 9, but the Capitals have gone 17-4-3 in the past 24 matchups.