Russian compatriots Ovechkin, Bobrovsky duel again

BY foxsports • December 18, 2014

Alex Ovechkin generates more shots on goal than anyone.

That didn't stop the red-hot Sergei Bobrovsky from stymying him one week ago.

Bobrovsky seeks to help the Columbus Blue Jackets match the longest winning streak in franchise history Thursday night at home against Ovechkin and the Capitals.

These Russian compatriots figure to be in the spotlight in this Metropolitan Division matchup after these clubs split the first two meetings. Washington (14-10-6) won the first one 4-2 on Nov. 11 behind two goals apiece from Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson, though they came against Blue Jackets backup Curtis McElhinney.

It was a different story last Thursday when Columbus (13-15-2) won 3-2 in overtime on Nick Foligno's power-play goal. Bobrovsky made 39 saves, including all nine on Ovechkin - who registered his highest shot total in a game and averages 4.7 to lead the league.

"There were a couple of shots Ovie took, and those are goals most nights," said Capitals coach Barry Trotz after that contest. "Against the best in the business, Bobrovsky, they weren't."

Bobrovsky has started all seven games of Columbus' current win streak, second-best in club history behind an eight-game run Jan. 6-23. He has posted a 1.63 goals-against average during this streak with 30 saves Tuesday in his first shutout, 1-0 at Detroit in a shootout.

"Bob's been unbelievable for us back there," center Boone Jenner said. "He's been a rock, he gives us a chance to win every night and we know he's got our backs."

Bobrovsky has faced Washington five times since joining Columbus before 2012-13. He went 0-1-1 with a 3.95 GAA in the first two as Ovechkin scored each time but has held him without a point in the last three, winning them all with a 1.63 GAA.

Bobrovsky, who had a 3.54 GAA in his final nine games before December, has helped Columbus record more wins this month than it did through October and November.

"We'll keep building, definitely," Bobrovsky said. "But we've still got a lot of work ahead of us to make the playoffs."

His defense got a little stronger Tuesday when veteran blueliner Fedor Tyutin returned after missing 13 games with a knee injury.

Six of the seven wins in this run for the Blue Jackets have been by one goal, with five going to overtime.

The Capitals have dropped their last three games that have gone past regulation, including Tuesday's 2-1 defeat at Florida. They ended up on the wrong end of a shootout that lasted an NHL-record 20 rounds, as Braden Holtby endured a long night in his 13th consecutive start.

"It definitely wasn't fun to be a part of it," said Holtby, who stopped 14 shots in the tiebreaker. "Being on the end that I had to make a save numerous times when the game was on the line and I didn't; that's not a fun spot to be in."

Holtby, though, has keyed Washington going 4-0-2 in their last six games as he's posted a 1.79 GAA.

The Capitals own the NHL's best power play at 27.1 percent overall and 35.5 on the road while the Blue Jackets are also among the overall leaders at 22.5.

Ovechkin and Foligno have each scored 14 times. Foligno has seven power-play goals to six for Ovechkin.

Johansson is enduring an eight-game goal drought.

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