February 17 vs. San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion
Time: 10:30 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Podcast at 4 p.m. on washingtoncaps.com
Washington Capitals (30-18-10)
San Jose Sharks (31-21-6)
Washington finally finishes a rugged stretch of scheduling in which it faces five consecutive Western Conference foes when it visits San Jose to take on the Sharks on Thursday night. The Caps’ five-game Western stretch started on Feb. 8 when the Sharks downed the Capitals 2-0 at Verizon Center. The Caps are 1-3 thus far in the five straight game span against the West.
Thursday’s game is also the middle match of the Caps’ current five-game road trip. The Caps are 1-1 on the trip to date.
Coming off a resilient 7-6 win over the Ducks in Anaheim on Wednesday, the Caps will be playing their second game in as many nights against a rested Sharks team.
Alexander Semin’s fourth hat trick of the season helped the Capitals to that win on Wednesday. The offensive outburst ended a dry spell for Semin that stretched back 17 games to Nov. 28.
It was the first time the Caps had scored more than five goals since a 6-0 win over Tampa Bay on Nov. 26 and the first time they scored as many as seven since a 7-2 win over the Flames in Calgary on Oct. 30.
“It’s been 25 games I think since we’ve scored more than four goals [without an empty-netter],” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Alex Semin scoring his first goal in 17 games and actually his first goal in 30 games that the team has played, you could see his eyes light up after he scored.
“That’s what we need, the secondary scoring. You get the goal from [David] Steckel’s line, or two goals, and it’s what makes our team go. When you rely on Nicky [Backstrom] and Alex [Ovechkin] to score every goal, it’s not that difficult to shut one line down. But when you get another line going …
“We’ve just now given up 13 goals in three games. We’ve got to get back to stopping the puck.”
Although the Caps allowed six goals to Anaheim, they only permitted 21 shots on goal. The Ducks did not record a single shot on goal after Bobby Ryan netted Anaheim’s sixth tally of the night at 5:51 of the third, so Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth was lonely over the game’s final 14 minutes as he recorded his 17th victory of the season.
Semin’s goals pushed his total to 21 on the season. He joins Alex Ovechkin as the second Capital to surpass the 20-goal level this season.
Not only is this Washington’s fifth straight game against a Western Conference foe, it’s the Caps’ fifth straight against a Pacific Division opponent. The Pacific is easily the league’s most competitive division. Heading into Thursday night’s NHL action, a mere two points separated the five denizens of the Pacific Division.
When the Caps and Sharks met early last week in Washington, San Jose came in on a hot streak, having gone 7-0-1 in their previous eight games. The Sharks have cooled a shade since, dropping one-goal decisions at New Jersey and Florida before concluding their seven-game road tour with a 2-1 overtime triumph in Nashville on Tuesday.
San Jose is now 10-2-1 in its last 13 contests.
Washington’s last win in San Jose was a 4-2 triumph on Oct. 30, 1993.
Arturs Irbe, now the Capitals’ goalie coach, was in net for the Sharks on that night more than 16 years ago. Washington is 0-9-1 in its 10 visits to the Tank since. The Sharks have doubled up the Caps on the scoreboard by a combined 38-19 in those 10 games.
Craig Berube, Peter Bondra, Keith Jones and Mike Ridley were the goal scorers for Washington that night. Rick Tabaracci made 25 saves to earn the win for the Caps.
Several of the participants in that game – including San Jose’s Rob Zettler, Mike Sullivan and Irbe and Washington’s Steve Konowalchuk and Berube – are now coaching in the NHL. Alan May, who suited up with Washington that night, now does television analysis for Comcast SportsNet. Of all the players dressed for both teams in that game, only Ray Whitney (now with Carolina) is still active in the league. Whitney was in his third season in the league in 1993-94.