Eight is great, but nine would be fine. That might be the thought process Tuesday night when the Washington Capitals
attempt to extend their eight-game winning streak by traveling to Montreal for an Eastern Conference showdown with the equally hot Canadiens. The puck drops at 4:00 p.m. (PT).
Washington forward Mike Knuble scored with 1:09 remaining in overtime during Sunday’s nationally televised contest against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks to give his club a 4-3 victory.
The eighth straight win moved the Capitals one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the best record in the Eastern Conference. It also moved the Caps 20 games above .500 for the first time this season with a ledger of 40-20-5-5. That marks Washington’s fourth straight 40-win season, a club record.
The winning streak is Washington’s longest since they set a franchise record with 14 straight victories from Jan. 13 to Feb. 7, 2010.
Defense and timely goals have been the key parts of Washington's streak. The Capitals have allowed a measly 12 goals during the eight-game winning streak.
Rookie goalie Braden Holtby has provided the Capitals with a boost. Holtby replaced an injured Michal Neuvirth after the first period in Tampa Bay on March 7. He won that game, plus the next three.
Holtby, who has yielded just four goals in 11 periods since replacing Neuvirth, made 27 stops against the Blackhawks.
The combined seven goals in Sunday’s game skipped ‘over’ the 5 ½-goal, ending Washington’s string of seven straight ‘under’ games. Nevertheless, the ‘under’ is a league-leading 51-18-1 in the Caps’ first 70 overall encounters.
Bruce Boudreau’s troops rank 22nd on offense, scoring an average of just 2.7 goals per game. However, they are fourth defensively, allowing 2.4 GPG. Most of that fine defensive work has occurred on the penalty kill where the Caps rank third with an 85.7 percent success rate.
The Montreal Canadiens have also been hot lately, winning seven of their last eight outings. That includes Saturday’s 3-0 victory at Pittsburgh as 125 road underdogs. The combined three goals dipped below the five-goal closing total, leaving the ‘under’ 39-21-9 in Montreal’s first 69 overall outings.
The recent hot streak has moved the Habs two points behind the first-place Boston Bruins in the Northeast Division.
Carey Price stopped all 26 Pittsburgh shots to register his eighth shutout and raise his record to 33-22-4-2. He has a 2.29 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
Price’s eighth shutout is the most by a Canadiens goalie since Ken Dryden had 10 in 1976-77. The 23-year-old Price moved into 12th place on Montreal’s all-time list for goaltending wins with 93, passing Gump Worsley and moving to within 13 victories of 11th-ranked Rogie Vachon.
The Canadiens are a sparkling 21-8-3-3 on their home ice despite outscoring the opposition by an average of just 2.9 to 2.3.
Montreal and Washington have split two games this season, with both contests dipping ‘under’ the closing total. That is not unusual, as the ‘under’ has cashed in the last five series meetings.
The first matchup occurred on Dec. 28, with the Caps notching a 3-0 shutout win as 165 home favorites. Both teams failed on the power play, with Washington getting eight chances to Montreal’s five. The Caps outshot the Habs, 30-25, with backup goalie Semyon Varlamov getting the shutout.
Montreal got its revenge during the Feb. 1 rematch with a 3-2 overtime victory as a 155 road underdog. The Habs won despite going 0-for-6 with the man advantage, leaving them 0-for-11 in the two meetings against the Caps. Washington was 1-for-3 on the power play, but got outshot 38-29.
Washington continues its six-game road excursion Wednesday by traveling to Detroit for a meeting with the Red Wings. Montreal stays home for a Thursday contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.