A pair of losses may have hurt Washington’s playoff chances, but with the league’s most dangerous offensive weapon on their side, the Capitals know they aren’t out of the race yet.
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals will try to bounce back from a disappointing weekend when they host the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
The Capitals (32-30-8) lost 2-1 in Boston on Saturday and 4-2 to Pittsburgh the following day. Sunday’s loss was especially disheartening, as Washington center Nicklas Backstrom inadvertently scored the winning goal for the Penguins on a failed attempt to clear the puck with 28 seconds left in regulation.
“That was officially heartbreaking,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I feel bad for Nick. He was doing everything that he could and ends up shooting it in his own net.”
The consecutive regulation losses were Washington’s first since Boudreau took over as coach on Thanksgiving Day. But more importantly, they left the Capitals seven points behind Carolina for the Southeast Division lead.
“If you’re looking at Carolina, they’re seven ahead of us right now,” Boudreau said. “We have two games against them, one in hand, those three you have to win and just hope a little bit.
“You gotta believe there’s a chance they’re going to lose a game before the end of the year.”
Ovechkin picked up three assists in the two games and leads the NHL with 95 points. He also tops the league with 54 goals and has a shot at becoming the first player since Mario Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) in 1995-96 with 60 in a season.
“It would be good. I have six more goals to score 60,” Ovechkin said. “But right now it’s all about winning the game, not goals. If you start thinking about goals, then, ‘OK, I don’t care about my team. I care about my personal stats.’”
The rest of the team knows just how important their young star is to their playoff chances.
“For us to make the playoffs,” center Brooks Laich said, `” think he’s probably going to have to hit 60.”
If recent history is any indication, the Capitals have a good chance to bounce back against Calgary (36-23-10). Washington has not lost to the Flames since a 5-4 home defeat on March 13, 1999, going 5-0-0 with two ties in seven meetings since.
However, the Flames are 7-1-2 in their last 10 overall games, including Monday’s 7-3 win over St. Louis. They also have their own offensive threat in captain Jarome Iginla, who became the teams’ all-time leading goal scorer against the Blues with the 365th of his career.
The 30-year-old Iginla, who also had two assists, passed Theo Fleury on the team’s career list. He has spent all 11 of his NHL seasons with the Flames and ranks third in team history with 743 points and first with 847 games played.
“I was definitely happy to get it at home and to get it in a win,” said Iginla, who leads the team with 41 goals and 41 assists this season. “I have a lot of good memories here, my first goal was here in the playoffs (in 1996). Time flies.”
Calgary, which is opening a four-game road trip, has been getting outstanding goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff lately. Kiprusoff is 5-1-2 with a 1.62 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last eight starts.