Team has earned points in 13 of 15 games
It had to be the low point of an eight-game losing streak. There were plenty of frustrating moments for the Capitals in December. But a 7-0 loss at Madison Square Garden to the New York Rangers was the worst. Washington hadn't endured a beating like that in almost five years. A 1-0 deficit after the first period turned into an avalanche. New York scored again 59 seconds into the second period, and by the end of that 20 minutes the Rangers were ahead 5-0.
The Caps' despair was captured memorably by HBO's 24/7 program, and there were two more losses still to come. But since snapping that losing streak Dec. 19, Washington is 9-2-4 with 22 standings points earned out of a possible 30. The Caps get another shot at the Rangers when New York visits Verizon Center on Monday night -- the second-to-last game before the NHL's All-Star break and the final one at home.
The Caps (27-14-8, 62 points) are coming off a successful three-game road trip with wins at the New York Islanders and Toronto and an overtime loss at Philadelphia. Against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, Washington topped three goals for just the third time since Dec. 2 -- a span of 23 games. Then again, it is allowing just 2.51 goals a game, the seventh-lowest mark in the NHL. The opposition has scored more than three goals only four times in the last 27 games.
|» Note the start time for Monday's home game against the New York Rangers. Because it is a national television game on Versus, the puck drops at 7:30 p.m.|
|» The Caps remain in second place in the Southeast Division, three points behind first place Tampa Bay (30-15-5, 65 points).|
|» Washington took the day off Sunday with no practice after returning from Toronto following a 4-1 victory on Saturday night.|
"That's what we've been doing, and it's been fairly successful," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It might not be the most exciting brand of hockey in the world. But everyone seems to like winning hockey these days, so that's what we have to do."
That loss to New York on Dec. 12 was the franchise's worst since Jan. 25, 2006, when the Pittsburgh Penguins beat Washington 8-1. The Caps actually lost by that same score three times in 2005-06. The Rangers (28-19-3, 59 points) are seventh in the Eastern Conference but have played well since a 7-7-1 start to the season. Washington won the first meeting between the two teams 5-3 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 9. The penalty kill continues to be a strength. The Caps haven't allowed a power-play goal in their last four games and have killed 90 of their last 103 short-handed situations (87.4 percent).