The Washington Capitals will look to keep their fading playoff hopes alive when they host the road-weary Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night.
The Capitals (33-31-7, 73 points) have just five wins in their last 17 games and currently sit on the outside, looking in at the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, the two teams in wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals are coming off a 5-3 defeat on the road to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, their fourth straight game allowing at least four goals. In three of those contests, they’ve yielded five.
Lately, slow starts have doomed the Capitals, who have fallen behind in each of their last four games. They overcame deficits of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 in a shootout on March 15, marking Washington’s sixth multi-goal comeback of the season and its third multi-goal comeback in the third period.
Against St. Louis and Minnesota, they were not as fortunate.
“We don’t give up, try to battle back,” star forward Alex Ovechkin said. “We try our best to win the hockey game. We don’t stop playing. We battle.”
“It’s frustrating we just haven’t started good,” added Washington center Dylan Strome. “I think like our last 40 minutes of the last five or six games have been pretty good. We’ve been hanging in there with everyone we played against.
“Obviously, our starts aren’t good. I’m not sure of the exact reason. We got to have a better start next game. Time’s quickly running out. You take away the first five minutes of the last five games, I feel like we’ve got more goals than the other team.”
In Sunday’s loss, Ovechkin had two goals — both on the power play — and is now just one goal from passing Wayne Gretzky for the most 40-goal seasons in NHL history (13).
Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist while Charlie Lindgren made 35 saves for the Capitals, who have just 11 games remaining to make a playoff push.
The Blue Jackets (21-41-7, 49 points) will head into Tuesday’s game finishing up a five-game road trip that had them winning in overtime in San Jose at the start but losing their next three. In their last two games, they’ve given up seven goals each time, losing to Anaheim and Vegas.
Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen missed Sunday’s game in Las Vegas due to a death in the family. His status for Tuesday in Washington is unknown. Associate coach Pascal Vincent took over behind the bench but couldn’t do much to help his team as Vegas pounced on their opportunities early in a 7-2 rout.
“They took advantage of their chances. Their goalie was pretty good,” Vincent said. “That’s the difference between a good team and a team in our position. We need to sustain that pace for 60 minutes. We’re going to get there. Just right now, that’s not the case. We had our moments, but we need to sustain it for 60 minutes.”
Kirill Marchenko and Liam Foudy scored for Columbus, but goalie Daniil Tarasov allowed five goals on just 29 shots before being replaced in the second period by Michael Hutchinson.
The Blue Jackets have allowed 266 goals, the second-highest total in the league behind only Anaheim. Columbus has allowed at least four goals in eight straight games, including five or more six times in that stretch.
–Field Level Media
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