The last time the Washington Capitals visited Madison Square Garden, they avoided playoff elimination with a dominant offensive display. Now, they’re expecting to get their most potent offensive force back on the ice.
Washington (12-4-4) won a second consecutive Southeast Division title last season, earning the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
That success, however, was nearly muted when the Capitals fell behind 3-1 in their first-round playoff series with the seventh-seeded Rangers. Washington, though, rallied to win the final three games to take the series, but the turning point may have come in Game 6 at MSG. The Capitals built a four-goal second-period lead en route to a 5-3 win that sent the series back to the nation’s capital, where they won 2-1.
Washington was eliminated by eventual champion Pittsburgh in the second round.
Ovechkin, who practiced with the team Tuesday, had three goals and four assists in the series against the Rangers, including one goal in Game 6.
The two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner is expected to be back in uniform Tuesday after an upper-body injury sidelined him for six games. He suffered the injury during an overtime loss to Columbus on Nov. 1.
“Unless something negative happens this afternoon and I don’t get the OK from (trainer Greg Smith) to play him, then I think he would be back,” coach Bruce Boudreau said after practice.
Washington is 4-2-0 without him, with both defeats coming on the road against New Jersey. It fell 5-2 to the Devils on Saturday.
Despite being out, Ovechkin’s 14 goals are tied for the league lead with San Jose’s Dany Heatley(notes) and Anze Kopitar(notes) of Los Angeles. The three-time All-Star also has the team lead with 23 points, and he appears to be confident that he’ll have a chance to add to that total Tuesday.
“We’ll see (Tuesday),” Ovechkin said. “I feel pretty good and excited. We’ll see (Tuesday) how I feel.”
Ovechkin has 10 goals and eight assists in 17 games against New York, but was held without a point in the last meeting, a 4-3 loss at home on Oct. 8.
The Capitals are 1-6-2 in their last nine regular-season visits to MSG.
The Rangers (11-8-1) are looking to build on Saturday’s 2-1 shootout win at Ottawa as right wing Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored the decisive attempt in the seventh round.
New York is 4-7-1 since a seven-game winning streak that included the win at Washington.
The team will likely be without captain Chris Drury(notes) for a third consecutive game after the center suffered a concussion on a hit to the head by Curtis Glencross(notes) in a 3-1 loss at Calgary on Nov. 7. The hit went unpenalized, but two days later the NHL suspended Glencross for three games.
The Rangers have split two games without Drury.
New York hopes Marian Gaborik(notes) can help it win consecutive games for the first time since that seven-game run last month. Gaborik has two goals and four assists in the last four games. He ranks second in the league in goals (13) and points (25), and eight of his goals have come at home, where the Rangers are 6-3-0.
Gaborik upstaged Ovechkin in the first meeting, scoring two goals, including the eventual winner with 9:28 to play in the third period. Those were his first two goals against the Capitals after being held without one in seven previous meetings while playing for Minnesota.