Though they have been better off lately playing on the road, the Washington Capitals now visit the city where their most lopsided loss of the season took place.
The Capitals seek their longest road winning streak in eight years Thursday night when they face the Philadelphia Flyers in a game pitting two of the league’s top goal scorers, Alex Ovechkin and Jeff Carter.
It’s the final regular-season matchup between the young stars - Ovechkin tops the NHL with 47 goals and Carter is third with 38 - but it’s possible they will meet again in the Eastern Conference playoffs. These teams played in the first round last season as Philadelphia won in seven games, and they could be headed for a semifinal series next month considering the Flyers are fourth in the East while Washington is third but only one point behind New Jersey.
A conference-best 25 home wins are a big reason the Capitals (41-21-6) are in that position, but they began this month with a four-game losing streak - each of those contests coming at the Verizon Center. That skid ended Tuesday as they went back on the road, winning 2-1 at Nashville in overtime on Sergei Fedorov’s goal.
“It was a good character win for us, and something we need to shake things up,” Fedorov said.
It’s been more than 15 years since Fedorov scored in Philadelphia (36-19-10) - he’s only played there six times since that goal - and an injury kept him out of the Capitals’ lone visit this season as they lost 7-1 on Dec. 20. The margin of defeat was Washington’s largest since losing by the same score to Toronto on Nov. 24, 2006.
However, the Capitals have reeled off four consecutive road victories, matching their best such streak from last season. They haven’t had a longer one since winning five straight road games from Feb. 14-March 6, 2001.
Tuesday’s victory began a two-week stretch in which Washington plays seven of eight games on the road, where the Capitals are 11-3-2 in their last 16.
“We’ve had a bit of a struggling streak, so it was a good game for us to play, and it was a great team effort,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who scored Tuesday. “I think it was one step forward. It’s something we have to continue to start winning games again.”
Ovechkin is riding an eight-game point streak during which he has five goals and five assists. He’s scored 20 goals in his last 23 games, helping the Capitals go 14-6-3.
Ovechkin had no points in the first two matchups with Philadelphia but had a goal and an assist in the most recent one, though the Capitals lost 4-2 on Feb. 24 in a chippy game that included 17 penalties.
That line keyed the Flyers’ 5-2 win over Buffalo on Tuesday as Carter scored twice off assists from Lupul and Hartnell, who also had two goals. Carter had gone five straight games without scoring.
“We cut back on being too fancy,” Carter said. “If you go for cross-ice passes a lot, sometimes they get picked off.”
Philadelphia is 10-4-1 in the past five weeks. Four of those defeats have come at home, but the Flyers have won at the Wachovia Center in their last two games.