The Boston Bruins are hoping back-to-back blowout victories are a sign the team is emerging from its February funk.
They’d especially like to prove that to their closest pursuers in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins will look for their first regulation victory of the season over the visiting Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon, as the top two teams in the East face off for the final time before a potential postseason series.
A potent offense helped lead Boston’s resurgence this season, but the Bruins (42-12-8) struggled to score goals consistently earlier this month, getting shut out twice during a 1-4-2 stretch.
They’ve rebounded swiftly to start a six-game homestand, outscoring Florida and Anaheim 12-1 in a pair of victories. Boston went 3-of-6 on the power play in those wins after going 5-of-50 in its previous 12 games.
“We just came back here and told ourselves we’ve got to go back to the way we played before,” forward David Krejci said. “We got six goals last game, and six goals this game. Things are going our way right now.”
Michael Ryder’s return has been one obvious reason for the turnaround. Ryder had two goals and an assist in Thursday night’s 6-0 win over the Ducks, giving him three goals and two assists in two games since he missed seven due to a fractured facial bone.
In his first season with the Bruins, Ryder ranks second on the team with 22 goals and is one of four Boston players with at least 20.
“He’s a threat whenever he’s out there,” coach Claude Julien said. “We talked about putting some emotion in our game when we were sliding, putting some jam and grit into it, and it allowed us to score some goals.”
Boston, though, had two key players suffer injuries Thursday. Marc Savard, who leads the team with 46 assists and 67 points, and Milan Lucic (34 points) both didn’t play in the third period with what Julien said were “upper body” injuries.
Chuck Kobasew also scored twice versus Anaheim, while Tim Thomas stopped 35 shots for his career-best fourth shutout of the season. Thomas’ 2.01 goals-against average leads the NHL, and he has a 1.01 GAA in his last five starts.
Thomas is 9-2-1 with a 2.34 GAA in his career against the Capitals (39-18-5), but Washington is 2-0-1 versus Boston this season. After losing twice in the nation’s capital, the Bruins won 3-2 at home on Krejci’s overtime goal Jan. 27.
With a nine-point gap between the teams, the Capitals may need a victory Saturday if they hope to catch Boston for the East’s top seed.
Washington’s talented offense is clicking after the team closed its five-game homestand by going 3-of-8 on the power play in a 4-3 win over Atlanta on Thursday night.
The Capitals scored at least four goals for the ninth time in the last 13 games even though superstar Alex Ovechkin didn’t add to his NHL-leading total of 44. Alexander Semin had a goal and two assists, while Mike Green scored his first goal since the end of his eight-game goal streak Feb. 14.
“When we play our system and we don’t try to do it ourselves, we usually have success,” Green said.
Green has scored in both of his two appearances against the Bruins this season, and he easily leads all NHL defensemen with 23 goals.
“He’s like a fourth forward sometimes,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The bigger question for Washington has been goaltending. After rookie Michal Neuvirth earned his second career victory Thursday, starter Jose Theodore will be back in net, but he’s 4-3-1 with a 3.07 GAA in his last eight starts.