Coyotes go for 5th straight win Monday vs. Capitals

GameTrax: Stats and more

By JEFF BARTL
STATS Writer

The Washington Capitals’ sputtering offense didn’t do them any favors heading into a crucial five-game road trip.

Facing the red-hot Ilya Bryzgalov may not be a cure for their woes.

The Phoenix Coyotes shoot for their fifth straight win Monday night against Washington while looking to keep pace in the tight Western Conference playoff race.

Bryzgalov improved to 4-0-0 with a 0.98 goals-against average in his last four starts, beating Chicago 3-2 in a shootout Saturday. He started the streak with back-to-back shutouts against Minnesota and Colorado, then extended it by stoning Patrick Kane on a breakaway attempt in with just over a minute left in overtime.

“I closed my eyes and hoped he’s not going to score,” Bryzgalov said.

Kidding aside, Bryzgalov’s play has helped Phoenix (29-19-9) in its bid for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs despite the Coyotes scoring more than three goals only once in the last 12 games.

“He’s big in the net right now and he’s giving our team confidence,” coach Dave Tippett told the NHL’s official website. “That was a heck of a save (on Kane). That’s one they call a game-saving save.”

However, Bryzgalov lost his only start against the Capitals, a 4-2 defeat Jan. 23, 2010, in the teams’ last meeting.

Radim Vrbata scored the shootout winner and added one in regulation, giving him four goals in his last three games. He scored in overtime against Dallas on Wednesday and netted two against the Avalanche last Monday.

Vrbata’s recent output has equaled the offensive production of the entire Washington team in its last three.

The Capitals (29-17-10) have scored two or fewer goals in nine of 13 games after falling 4-1 to Los Angeles on Saturday.

“It’s like we’re waiting for something to happen,” winger Mike Knuble said. “It’s time to throw the switch toward the playoffs. We’re entering the toughest part of the season. It’s going to be a real indicator if we’re a serious contender or not, quite honestly.”

After two straight home losses, Washington’s road trip may have come at a good time. The Capitals are 6-2-2 in their last 10 away from home, holding opponents to two or fewer goals in seven of those matchups.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 21st goal just 1:06 into the game, but the Kings scored four unanswered goals on Semyon Varlamov, who fell to 1-4-2 with a 2.52 GAA in his last seven starts.

“We outworked them in the first, got outworked in the second and all we had to do was outwork them in the third to start off a tough road trip,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “(The Capitals) looked like they were already thinking about what’s going on in the sun.”

Ovechkin had a goal and an assist, and Alexander Semin had a goal and three assists in last season’s win against Phoenix, which ended a two-game losing streak against the Coyotes.

Phoenix has won three straight at home after losing five consecutive at Jobing.com Arena from Jan. 17-Feb. 2.

Updated February 13, 2011