Capitals try for 12th straight win over Bruins
WASHINGTON — One night after ending a streak of futility against the Ottawa Senators, the Boston Bruins will attempt to slay a much larger demon.
The Bruins travel to Washington on Thursday having lost 11 straight games to the Capitals and coach Barry Trotz. Two of those defeats came this season, with Washington winning twice in Boston.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby picked up his first NHL win against the Bruins seven years ago and hasn’t stopped beating them. He enters Thursday night 13-2-0 versus the Bruins with a 1.90 goals against average, a .942 save percentage and three shutouts.
At least the Bruins (20-10-5) are coming in hot. Boston has won five straight by a combined 20-5 and is 14-3-1 in its past 18 games.
Riley Nash scored his first two goals since Nov. 28 and added an assist as the Bruins came out of the holiday break with a 5-1 victory over the Senators on Wednesday night. Nash matched his career high in points as he scored his third and fourth goals of the season.
“He has it in him,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told the Boston Globe regarding Nash’s offensive touch. “He’s been a little streaky for us. Hopefully this pushes him in that direction. I think when he has scored, it’s been very timely for us. It’s not like he’s going out and getting a sixth goal in a game that’s out of reach.”
Tuukka Rask made 25 saves, improving to 9-0-1 in his last 10 starts. David Backes and Danton Heinen each posted a goal and an assist for Boston.
“The last month or so everybody’s been contributing,” Rask said. “We always talk about it — that’s what we need a lot of nights, and it’s been happening for sure.”
Washington (22-13-3), one of five teams bunched atop the Metropolitan Division, came out of the break scoreless at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Philipp Grubauer started against the Rangers and made 37 saves in a 1-0 shootout loss.
Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejed scored shootout goals for New York while Washington’s T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin were stopped by Ondrej Pavelec.
“I mean, the only reason we got a point is Grubauer,” Trotz said, referring to his goaltender’s effort. “We mismanaged the puck in the middle of the ice, we turned pucks over. (Grubauer) got us every save possible, and we weren’t able to get a goal, and obviously in the shootout, we didn’t get it done.”
The Capitals, who won eight of nine earlier in the month, are 0-1-2 in their past three.
“I don’t know how many games we’ve played, but it feels like Christmas is sort of the halfway point, so I feel like teams really start to kick it in gear here,” Oshie told the Washington Post. “Teams look at the standings and realize that there’s not much more time to mess around or much more time to — I guess take it easy isn’t the right word — but not much more time to not give it your best every night.
“We’ve got to hunker down here. Everyone else will be.”
Boston’s Anton Khudobin, the likely starter in goal on Thursday, is 4-4-1 with a 2.76 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and one shutout versus Washington.
The Capitals opened the season series with a 3-2 victory Nov. 4. Tom Wilson scored twice and Holtby stopped 31 shots.
On Dec. 14, the Capitals won 5-3. Alex Chiasson had a pair of goals for Washington while Holtby made 34 saves. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron scored twice, and Khudobin stopped 17 shots.
Alex Ovechkin has 20 goals and 24 assists in 44 games against the Bruins. Nicklas Backstrom has seven goals and 29 assists in 33 games.
Bergeron has 12 goals and 26 assists in 43 games against the Capitals. David Pastrnak has three goals and four assists in eight games vs. Washington.