With star Alex Ovechkin mired in a minor scoring drought, new fourth-liner Joel Ward provided a spark to wake the Washington Capitals’ slumbering offense.
That certainly doesn’t bode well for the Vancouver Canucks, who have been having a tough time keeping the puck out of their own net.
As the Canucks look to avoid a fourth loss in five games, the Capitals will have to overcome nearly two decades of futility in Vancouver on Sunday night to win two of three on their Canadian trip.
After scoring 18 times over its first four games, Washington (4-1-2) managed only three goals in its next two before Ward stepped up with his first two-goal effort since Feb. 2 in Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Calgary.
Ward had been added to the fourth line earlier this week in an effort to boost the scuffling attack and is now within one of Ovechkin’s team-leading four goals after posting a career-best 24 last season.
"That’s what you want," coach Barry Trotz said. "You want guys to respond, not to pout."
After pouring in a team-best five goals over a three-game stretch, Ovechkin hasn’t produced a point in his last three. The top-line forward has scored three times in his last three games versus Vancouver.
Ovechkin found the back of the net in the most recent meeting March 14 before defenseman Mike Green added the go-ahead score in the third period of a 4-3 home win.
The Capitals also lost 3-2 at Rogers Arena on Oct. 28 after Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin provided the winner early in the third. The Canucks have gone 12-2-2 in the series since the start of the 1998-99 season, including 7-0-1 at home.
Sedin leads Vancouver (4-3-0) with 10 points after finishing with a goal and an assist in Friday’s 7-3 loss at Colorado. He also has three goals and three assists in his last three matchups versus Washington.
Radim Vrbata has a team-high four goals and has scored in each of his last two games against the Capitals.
The Canucks, however, are unlikely to continue their success in the series unless they tighten things up defensively. They’ve given up 17 goals in losses during a 1-3 stretch and have allowed a power-play score in four straight contests.
"We just fell apart as a team," backup goalie Eddie Lack told the NHL’s official website after stopping 41 of 48 shots Friday. "It was a tough game for me. You are never happy when you give up seven goals."
Ryan Miller is expected to return between the pipes after he bounced back with 31 saves in Thursday’s 4-1 win at St. Louis. He had surrendered a season-worst five goals on just 13 shots in a 6-3 loss at Dallas two days earlier.
Miller is 4-1-0 with a 2.71 goals-against average this season and 15-12 with a 2.50 mark in 28 starts against the Capitals.
Washington could turn to backup Justin Peters (1-0-1, 1.49 GAA) in the second of back-to-back games. In his only career start at Vancouver, he stopped 24 of 25 shots in a 2-0 loss Dec. 9 while with Carolina.
The Capitals have been solid in front of the net, allowing fewer than 30 shots in each of their seven games – the club’s longest such stretch since Oct. 27-Nov. 9, 2010.