Capitals-Maple Leafs Preview
The Washington Capitals continued their strong play against Atlantic Division teams their last time out. The Toronto Maple Leafs have witnessed first-hand how dominant they can be.
Washington looks to extends its overall win streak to five with a fourth straight victory over Toronto on Saturday night.
The Capitals (16-5-1) beat Tampa Bay 4-2 on Friday to improve to 19-1-3 in their last 23 against Atlantic opponents. Jason Chimera had a power-play goal and an assist, Alex Ovechkin scored and Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for Washington, which has outscored teams 17-8 during its four-game run.
Chimera has three goals and two assists on the power play in eight games since being put on the second line with Kuznetsov, who leads the team with 26 points and has eight in the past four games.
"He makes things a little easy," Chimera said. "It's just one of those things where, he's a special kid, special player. He's making me look good, that's for sure."
Three of those 19 wins over Atlantic clubs have come against Toronto, including 3-2 in a shootout Nov. 7 after Nicklas Backstrom tied the game with 0.8 seconds left in regulation. The Capitals have outscored the Maple Leafs 12-4 in those matchups.
"The margin for error is really small," forward James van Riemsdyk told the Maple Leafs' official website. "They're going to make some plays out there with the players they have on their team, so you have to make sure you're sharp for the whole 60 minutes and not give them any freebies. They've shown what they can do when they have a lot of space."
Ovechkin has four goals in the last five games overall and Backstrom has seven points in the past six.
Ovechkin has 13 goals and 10 assists during the stretch against Atlantic teams with Backstrom equaling that 23-point total with five goals and 18 assists.
The Maple Leafs (7-10-5) are coming off a home-and-home sweep to the Bruins, losing 2-0 in Boston last Saturday and 4-3 in a shootout Monday. They fell behind 2-0 after the first period before rallying to tie it on Tyler Bozak's goal with 3:51 remaining in the second.
Toronto struggled on special teams, going 0 for 6 on the power play - including one in overtime - while allowing a short-handed goal. The Capitals are 4 for 6 on the power play over their last two games.
However, the Maple Leafs managed to pick up a point for the eighth time in 10 games following a 1-6-1 stretch.
"We're still a work in progress," left wing Joffrey Lupul said. "It's kind of the quarter pole (of the season) now, but you can see noticeable differences. We're better now than we were a couple months ago, but we're going to have to keep improving if we want to be a team that can stay in that playoff race."
Ovechkin and Backstrom each had a goal and an assist in the first meeting, with Ovechkin also scoring the only shootout goal in the fourth round. Ovechkin has four goals and two assists during the three-game win streak in the series, while Backstrom has seven points in his last six matchups.
"He scores goals and he's done it consistently through his whole career," Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf said of Ovechkin, who ranks third all-time behind Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux with 0.62 goals per game. "He's dangerous every time he has the puck, he's a shooter, he loves to shoot the puck, and he shoots it hard and shoots it very well."