Streaking Blues visit Capitals
WASHINGTON — The St. Louis Blues will aim for their fifth consecutive win when they travel to Washington to face the Capitals on Wednesday night.
St. Louis (11-6-3) defeated the Bruins 4-2 in Boston on Tuesday night for just their third road win of the season. The surging Blues, second in the Central Division, trailed early but rallied twice. They haven't allowed a third-period goal in their past four games.
“We've made the other teams crack by keeping the pressure up, keeping the good play up and not cracking ourselves,” coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Jori Lehtera scored twice for St. Louis against Boston, including an empty-netter. Patrik Berglund snapped an 11-game scoreless streak with two assists, and Paul Stastny and Robert Bortuzzo each provided a goal.
“We're building. Building every day,” Bortuzzo told the Post-Dispatch. “We had a tough stretch there, but it seems like we're going in the right direction.”
Jake Allen stopped 39 shots for St. Louis, so Washington might face Carter Hutton (2-3-0, 2.77 goals-against average) in the second of back-to-back games. Hutton is 2-1-0 with a 3.25 GAA versus Washington in his career. Allen posted a shutout in his only game against Washington.
The Capitals are coming off a rare home loss Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Former St. Louis forward T.J. Oshie (eight goals on the season) is week-to-week with an upper-body injury and won't be in the lineup for the first of two games between the teams, but Lars Eller (upper-body injury) might return after missing one game.
In the teams' last meeting on April 9, the Capitals defeated the Blues 5-1 at Scottrade Center as Alex Ovechkin scored three goals and Nicklas Backstrom picked up three assists.
Ovechkin leads Washington (11-5-2) with nine goals, and Backstrom has five goals and 12 assists. However, with forwards Justin Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky all stuck on two goals after 18 games, other Capitals are stepping up.
Marcus Johansson has seven goals and six assists, and Jay Beagle, whose career high is 10 goals, has four and four assists.
“When I first got here, everybody told me that (Beagle) is just fourth line and he's not going to score a whole lot, and he's shown that he can score a little bit more and he's worked on it,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “There's one thing that you cannot deny with Jay Beagle: that he works on his game.”
Despite their regular-season success a year ago, the Capitals often played from behind. This season they scored first in 15 of 18 games.
“We put an emphasis on it,” Trotz said. “It's hard to trail in this league. The parity is so good and teams are so structured and teams play well. … You don't get that opportunity to come back from a few goals.”
Ovechkin has 10 goals and 10 assists in 13 games vs. St. Louis, while Backstrom has six goals and 11 assists in 12 games. Holtby is 3-0 with a 1.00 GAA against the Blues.
St. Louis could be in for a letdown of sorts after Tuesday's game, in which they faced long-time teammate and former captain, David Backes, who scored Boston's first goal.
“Yeah, I think if you ask the family or people outside the situation, you are happy for him, he gets his goal,” Stastny said. “As a team, we are happy because you know we got our two points and now we look forward to (Wednesday).”