Viktor Kozlov and the Washington Capitals hope to build on their win over the best team in the Eastern Conference Saturday night when they open a five-game stretch against Southeast Division foes with a visit from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Capitals (6-9-1) ended a season high-tying four-game losing streak Thursday as Kozlov scored a goal and assisted on two others in a 4-1 victory at Ottawa, stopping the Senators’ franchise-record eight-game winning streak.
“There’s no question we can draw a little bit of confidence from this and there is a little bit of weight taken off our shoulders, but we’re still under .500 and we’re still a long way from where we want to be,” Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig said after making 27 saves Thursday. “But for a young team, we can really use this as a confidence builder.”
Washington opened 2007-08 with three straight wins before struggling through a woeful 2-11-1 stretch, which included a 5-3 home victory over the Lightning (7-8-1) on Oct. 24.
Kozlov registered an assist in that contest and has been a key for the Caps with nine of his 11 points coming in victories, including all three goals. Washington signed the veteran center to a two-year, $5 million contract in the offseason after he scored a career-high 25 goals and had 51 points for the New York Islanders in 2006-07.
Kozlov has a point in each of his last four games against the Lightning, and recorded a career-high five in New Jersey’s 8-2 win at Tampa Bay on Nov. 25, 2005.
Kozlov’s stellar performance Thursday also included an assist on 19-year-old Nicklas Backstrom’s first career NHL goal. The highly touted rookie, who was drafted fourth overall in 2006, has eight points, including three in his last four games.
“It was nice, and we won the game, too, so that was the most important thing,” Backstrom said. “It was just a bonus for me, my first goal, but it was a great feeling.”
Alexander Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 10 goals and 18 points after getting two points against the Senators. He had three points on Oct. 24, giving him 22 in 17 games against the Lightning, his second-highest output against any opponent.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is coming off its first win in eight road games this season, 5-1 over Southeast-leading Carolina on Thursday.
“This is huge,” said Lightning defenseman Shane O’Brien, who had two goals for the second time in four games. “We’ll probably look at the video and I’m sure we made a few mistakes. But to come in here against a team that’s playing very well and get two points the way we did is great for our team.”
The Lightning now look to match their season-high win streak at three behind the solid goaltending of Johan Holmqvist, who has allowed only two goals in the last two games. He stopped 40 shots against Carolina after making 22 saves in a 3-1 victory over Florida on Wednesday, a vast improvement from his 0-4-1 record and 4.26 goals-against average in his previous five starts.
Vincent Lecavalier had two points against the Hurricanes, giving him nine in the last four contests, and his team-best 22 rank among the league leaders. Lecavalier was held without a point in the last matchup with the Capitals after scoring nine goals and registering 16 points in eight games against them last season.