Washington scored eight goals in a lopsided win over the Philadelphia Flyers last month even without Alex Ovechkin(notes). With their superstar forward back in high gear, the Capitals are looking even tougher to beat now.
The NHL’s top offensive attack looks to continue its recent scoring binge Sunday against the Flyers, who have shown major improvement since their last game against Washington.
Ovechkin was serving a two-game suspension when the Capitals visited Philadelphia on Dec. 5, but Washington still went 4 of 6 on the power play and notched its biggest output of the season in an 8-2 victory.
The two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner has been a major part of the Capitals’ recent surge, winning five of six while averaging more than five goals a game.
Ovechkin, who easily leads the NHL with 1.6 points per game, has totaled three goals and nine assists in his last five games. He scored 49 seconds into Friday’s game against Toronto and added a career-high four assists in a 6-1 win.
For the season, the Southeast Division-leading Capitals (29-12-6) are averaging 3.7 goals - nearly a half goal more than any other team.
“He enjoys the team scoring goals,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of Ovechkin. “Whether he gets an assist or whether he gets nothing, when the team does well, he does well.”
Washington has been doing especially well at the Verizon Center, winning three straight and eight of nine there to improve the Eastern Conference’s best home record to 15-3-3. The Caps beat Philadelphia 4-2 at home on Oct. 27, with Ovechkin scoring two goals to give him 18 in 18 career games against the Flyers.
The clubs’ Dec. 5 meeting featured some fireworks during a confrontation between Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo and Washington’s Matt Bradley(notes). Carcillo was given a game misconduct after punching Bradley before the Capitals’ wing had dropped his gloves.
“Matt is one of the most popular players on the team, so when somebody takes liberties with him like that, I think the guys rallied around and wanted to make them pay,” Boudreau said.
The Flyers (23-20-3) lost that game with Peter Laviolette making his coaching debut after replacing John Stevens, with the team embroiled in what ended up as a 3-13-1 stretch.
Philadelphia has turned it around by going 8-2-1 in its last 11 while averaging 4.0 goals, returning to the edge of the East playoff picture. But the Flyers’ four-game winning streak ended in a 4-0 loss Thursday at Toronto.
After going 9 of 19 (47.4 percent) on the power play in the previous five games, the Flyers were 0 of 4 against the Maple Leafs.
“Our power play was a reflection of our game,” Laviolette said. “Puck battles, quickness to loose pucks, all those areas we lost.”
If Leighton makes his 12th straight start for the Flyers, it would be his first appearance in Washington. He is 1-2-0 with a 3.04 goals-against average in three career starts against the Capitals, all with Carolina.
Jose Theodore(notes), who is 2-0-1 with a 2.40 GAA this season against Philadelphia, figures to start for the Caps, although Semyon Varlamov(notes) could be close to returning from a groin injury that has kept him out since Dec. 7.