Led by Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom(notes) and Alexander Semin(notes), the Capitals on Tuesday night seek their third straight win over the Hurricanes in a matchup of the top and bottom teams in the Southeast Division.
Washington, which is looking for its fourth straight victory overall and is 11-3-0 since Nov. 25, leads the league with 139 goals scored thanks to the reigning two-time Hart Trophy winner and a pair of gifted playmakers.
“We understand each other a lot, and you can see how we control the puck in the offensive zone and we feel pretty good and nobody can stop us,” Ovechkin said as he tries to become the first player with four straight three-point games since St. Louis’ Keith Tkachuk(notes) and San Jose’s Patrick Marleau(notes) in December 2005.
Washington (24-8-6) has needed all it can get from the trio when facing the Hurricanes.
The Capitals got two goals and an assist from Backstrom, but lost Ovechkin following a knee-to-knee collision with Carolina’s Tim Gleason(notes) on Nov. 30 in a 3-2 win. Ovechkin was suspended two games for the incident before returning with two goals in a 3-0 victory over Tampa Bay on Dec. 7.
The line continued to play prominent roles Saturday, combining for seven points in a 4-1 victory over New Jersey. Ovechkin and Backstrom each had a goal and two assists, and Semin also drew an assist before agreeing to a one-year contract extension that will keep him with the club through next season.
Ovechkin leads Washington with 25 goals and 47 points while Backstrom has a team-high 30 assists and is second with 45 points. Semin, who’s missed nine games with a wrist injury and an undisclosed illness, is averaging better than a point per contest.
Not surprisingly, all three all are headed to the Olympics. Ovechkin and Semin will play for Russia while the 22-year-old Backstrom will be the youngest player on Sweden’s roster.
Hours before Monday’s game, the Capitals acquired gritty forward Jason Chimera(notes) from Columbus for captain Chris Clark(notes) and defenseman Milan Jurcina(notes). Chimera has eight goals and nine assists in 39 games, but also has 47 penalty minutes—more than anyone on Washington’s roster.
Carolina is coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to Philadelphia on Saturday, dropping the final three games of a four-game stretch at home.
Jussi Jokinen(notes) sandwiched second-period goals around one by Brandon Sutter(notes) as the Hurricanes rallied from a 3-0 deficit. Carolina, though, was unable to get anything past former teammate Michael Leighton(notes) in the tiebreaker.
“If you’re down three and you’re not playing very well, it’s very difficult to believe in the game that you can come back,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. “But we’d left enough sitting on their goal line to know that if we got one, we could get three.”
Cam Ward(notes) stopped 33 shots through overtime, but is 2-4-2 with a 3.58 goals-against average after missing more than a month with a leg laceration. He’s 0-7-3 on the road this season, meaning Manny Legace(notes) will probably be the one to try and stop the Caps’ high-powered offense.
Legace, signed when Ward was injured, is 2-0-0 with a 1.77 GAA in three career games versus Washington.
Eric Staal(notes) (3) and Tom Kostopoulos(notes) (2) are the only Carolina players with more than one point against the Capitals this season. Staal has a three-game goal-scoring streak at the Verzion Center.