Washington will try to extend its winning streak to nine games Friday night while looking to beat the Florida Panthers for the fifth time this season.
The Capitals (35-12-6) have a six-point cushion atop the conference thanks to a prolific offense that’s outscored opponents 41-18 during the eight-game run. It’s Washington’s third winning streak of that length and first since March 9-26, 1989, two victories shy of the club record set from Jan. 27-Feb. 18, 1984.
The team’s current surge has been spurred by seven goals and 10 assists from Ovechkin, who ranks among the league leaders with 34 goals and 73 points. The two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner is also getting considerable help Alexander Semin(notes), who has six goals and eight assists in eight games, and Mike Knuble(notes) with six and two, respectively.
The Capitals lead the NHL in scoring with 3.83 goals per game - more than a half-goal better than any other team - and they’re on pace to become the highest scoring team since the Pittsburgh Penguins averaged 4.41 in 1995-96.
Since Ovechkin was named captain on Jan. 5, the Caps have won 11 of 12, and scored at least four goals in all but one of them.
Washington’s superb run continued with Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Anaheim, as Semin scored twice in a four-goal third-period to break the tie. Ovechkin needed just 36 seconds to find the back of the net before setting up one of Semin’s tallies and another by Knuble.
“The guys like what they’re doing - and they like winning,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We talked about it in the dressing room in between periods - we’re going to go after them. We’ve got a good thing going. Let’s just take it right to ‘em and see where it leads.”
The Capitals have won 11 of 15 meetings with the Panthers, including all four this season and two at home. They took the last matchup, 5-4 in a shootout at Florida on Jan. 13, after Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom(notes) scored on Tomas Vokoun(notes) in the third period to erase a two-goal deficit and forge the tie.
Vokoun was beaten three times in the tiebreaker, but he’s been a major reason for the Panthers 5-1-1 run since, starting each game and posting a 0.99 goals-against average. He’s been even better in the last five games, getting two shutouts and allowing only four goals in regulation.
“We knew it was going to be a close, low-scoring game,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I really liked the way we stuck to the game plan. I thought we really limited their chances. We got some great efforts from some people, like Matthias, just what you need in games like this.”
The Panthers, though, will try to continue that momentum on the road, where they’ve dropped five of seven while getting blanked twice.
Vokoun is 1-5-1 with a 3.01 GAA in seven games against Washington.