December 7 vs. Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m., Two-Man Advantage at 2 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Dale Hunter at 5 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com.
Washington Capitals (13-12-1)
Ottawa Senators (13-11-3)
Washington finishes a two-game road trip with a Wednesday night visit to Ottawa to take on the Senators. The two teams have already met twice this season, both times at Verizon Center. The Capitals took both of those contests by the slimmest of margins.
Most recently, the Caps won a 3-2 overtime decision from the Sens in the District this past Saturday night. Brooks Laich supplied the overtime game-winner for Washington in that one, scoring to beat his former team while skating in his 500th career NHL contest.
The Caps departed for their current two-game trip on Sunday, and got off on the wrong foot with a 5-4 loss to the Panthers in Florida on Monday. Washington fell into a 5-1 hole midway through that game against the Cats, surrendering three power play goals in the process.
The Capitals stormed back to score three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes and 20 seconds of play, but ran out of time and dropped their third decision in four games since Dale Hunter took over behind the Washington bench.
It took the Capitals a combined total of 140 minutes and 58 seconds of hockey to surrender their first five goals against of the Hunter administration, but the Caps surrendered five goals in a span of just 32 minutes and 11 seconds in Monday’s loss to the Panthers.
Overall, the Capitals are now 6-12-1 in their last 19 games.
Washington has won 20 or more road games in each of the last four seasons, the best run of its kind in the franchise’s history. After starting off the 2011-12 campaign with four wins in their first seven road games, the Capitals have now dropped five straight on the road to fall to 4-8 on the season.
The team’s current five-game road skid is its longest in nearly five years, since a six-game drought that stretched from Dec. 26, 2006 through Jan. 16, 2007. Washington has been outscored by a combined 24-8 during the life of its current road losing streak.
“It’s harder to win on the road,” notes Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman. “You’ve got to play more of a grinding game, a simple game. Just getting in and playing solid defensively and trying to be opportunistic. Good teams find ways to win on the road or win when they’re tired. Obviously, we haven’t been great on the road; we haven’t even been good on the road. We have to turn that around.”
Every area of the team’s game has crumbled on the road. Washington has been outscored 32-44 in its dozen road games. The Capitals are 26th in the league with an 11.4% power play success rate on the road this season, and they rank 29th in the circuit in road penalty killing with a 74.5% kill rate.
“We haven’t been able to put a game together where we get good goaltending, the [defense] plays well and we score goals in a long time,” says Wideman. “There’s always something [lacking]. The goalies play good and then we don’t score any goals. Or we score goals but we’re letting in a lot of goals. We’re not putting everything together right now.”
Monday’s loss in Florida marked the first time the Caps had scored more than a single goal in a span of five road games, and the first time in nearly a month that Washington had scored three or more goals in a road game. Only two of the five goals the Capitals surrendered came at even-strength.
“I think we’re getting closer,” says Wideman.”We created a lot of scoring chances [Monday] night. We ended up with four goals. But we’ve got to shore it up. We had a couple breakdowns on backchecks where we kind of over-backchecked. The [defense], our gaps were a little off and we gave [the Panthers] a little more space than we should have. And then obviously the PK struggled.”
“We’ve definitely been in a little bit of a funk,” admits Caps right wing Joel Ward. “But I think it’s just a process of what we’re going through. Things are going to turn around here shortly. I think we just need to stick to our game plan and believe in one another. I think we’ll improve that road record soon enough.”
Going into Tuesday night’s NHL action, the Senators are tied with Buffalo for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings while Washington is tied with Montreal for ninth, two points behind the Sabres and Sens.
After taking that 3-2 overtime loss at the hands of the Capitals in Washington on Saturday, Ottawa returned home to take a 4-2 decision from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
Ottawa just finished weathering a rugged stretch of scheduling road with relative aplomb. The Sens went 5-3-2 during a span in which they played nine of 10 games on the road, a run that concluded with Saturday’s overtime loss to the Capitals in Washington.
After playing well through that difficult stretch, Ottawa is now in the midst of a span in which it will play 11 of 15 on home ice. The Sens will not be faced with consecutive road contests at all during that 15-game run.
Milan Michalek paces a potent Ottawa attack. He scored his 16th of the season on Monday against the Bolts, and shares the league lead in that department.
Despite a 3.36 GAA and an .896 save pct. Sens goalie Craig Anderson is 12-8-2 on the season. He has given up three or more goals in five of his last six appearances, going 3-2-1 in those half dozen contests.