Blue Jackets try for fifth straight victory
Their longest winning streak of the season has the Columbus Blue Jackets gaining confidence.
The Washington Capitals are also on the verge of matching a season-high streak – something they would prefer to avoid.
Seeking their fifth consecutive victory Friday night, the host Blue Jackets look to end a five-game losing streak to the Capitals, who will be trying to avert a season high-tying fourth straight defeat.
Columbus (22-20-4) beat Tampa Bay 3-2 on Monday for its fifth victory in six games in the new year, as Mark Letestu redirected Jack Johnson’s shot from the point with 2:38 left for the winning goal. It was the Blue Jackets’ second power-play goal of the third period as they rallied for their longest run of 2013-14.
"We got our game back," coach Todd Richards said about the step up after a dismal second period. "To me, that’s a sign of the character you’re looking for from your group. Teams are going to make pushes, get some momentum in the game … but I like the way we went after it in the third period."
Columbus outshot Tampa Bay 11-7 in the third after the Lightning held a 12-7 advantage in the second.
Forward Nathan Horton scored his 200th career goal to pull the Blue Jackets even in the final period. Horton, who missed the first 40 games this season while recovering from shoulder surgery after joining the team as a free agent last summer, has two goals and two assists in six contests since debuting Jan. 2.
"We showed some character coming back," Horton said. "That’s what we (got) when we needed it most."
Washington (22-17-8) will need some as well as it looks to avoid another loss. The Capitals fell 4-3 to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, getting outshot 37-28 and allowing two straight Penguins goals – the final one with 1:54 left – after taking the lead on Alex Ovechkin’s 34th goal at 8:35 of the third.
"We figured out a way to lose it tonight," coach Adam Oates told the team’s official website. "We had two chances (to win it), two chances in the third, and (we made) too many mistakes on both goals."
Washington had scored one goal in each of its previous two defeats – both in shootouts – and has gone 2-3-4 in its last nine. The Capitals, winners of the Southeast Division last season, are 18 points behind first-place Pittsburgh in the newly formed Metropolitan Division.
"We did a lot of good things in the game. And obviously, you get tired of saying that too, especially when we blow it," Oates said. "Tonight we played a good game and we figured out a way to get leads in the third against a fresher team, and we didn’t sustain it. You have to be able to."
Maybe Friday’s matchup will allow Oates’ club to get back on track. Washington has gone 5-0-1 in the last six in the series, taking both meetings of 2013-14 at home in the teams’ first season as division rivals.
Ovechkin scored for the second straight game and third time in four Wednesday, and he has four goals and three assists in his past seven. He’s scored in each of the last three meetings with Columbus, recording four goals in that span.
Letestu has three goals in his last two contests.