It may finally be coming together for the Washington Capitals, and not a moment too soon. They look to continue their playoff push and extend their winning streak to four games Friday night when they host the sputtering New Jersey Devils.
After an early season funk that resulted in the firing of coach Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals (32-26-5) appear to have righted themselves. Washington has moved within three points of the Southeast Division lead and trails division rival Winnipeg by one point for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
On Tuesday night, the Capitals got the kind of victory that could provide a spark for the remainder of their season-long five-game homestand. Washington scrambled for a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders, scoring two goals in the final 3:29 of regulation before Alexander Ovechkin scored 1:35 into the extra period.
Ovechkin has two goals and two assists during the win streak, but one thing the Capitals haven’t done of late is convert on the power play. Washington is 0 for 11 with the man advantage in the three victories and 2 for 32 in its last nine games overall.
The power play has also fizzled against New Jersey this season, failing to convert all 12 of its chances while going 1-0-2.
As the Capitals have found ways to win of late, the Devils (35-23-5) have done the exact opposite. New Jersey lost its fourth straight game, matching a season high, Thursday night but did salvage a point with a 4-3 overtime loss at Boston.
Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson scored second period goals for New Jersey to erase a two goal deficit only to have David Krejci complete his hat trick by beating Martin Brodeur in the third period and 2:59 into overtime.
The Devils are hoping Johan Hedberg can stem the losing tide as he is expected to make his second start at Washington this season. He turned aside 15 of 17 shots and 3 of 4 attempts in the shootout Nov. 12 when New Jersey rallied from a two goal first period deficit to win 3-2.
Ilya Kovalchuk delivered in New Jersey’s other shootout win over Washington on Dec. 23, providing a goal and an assist before converting in the tiebreaker. It was the only appearance versus the Capitals this season for Kovalchuk, who has 25 goals and 29 assists in 49 lifetime games against them.
New Jersey Devils – Johan Hedberg
Washington Capitals – Michal Neuvirth
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