Washington (18-6-2) at Dallas (14-8-1)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Dallas, TX
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Thu Dec 2, 2010
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Alex Ovechkin(notes) may be approaching the longest goal drought of his career, but Semyon Varlamov(notes) is providing the difference in net for the NHL-leading Washington Capitals.

Coming off another superb effort, Varlamov will likely get a chance to extend the Capitals’ winning streak to five when they visit the surging Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

Washington (18-6-2) has moved atop the NHL with 38 points while leading the league with 90 goals. That’s not much of a surprise after the Capitals scored an NHL-best 318 goals last season en route to their first Presidents’ Trophy.

Ovechkin hasn’t contributed lately, though, as he’s mired in an eight-game goal drought to move one shy of the longest of his career set from Oct. 13-Nov. 8, 2008. The two-time MVP has scored at least 46 goals in each of his first five seasons, but has become more of a playmaker by collecting seven assists during Washington’s winning streak.

While Ovechkin struggles to score, Varlamov has been superb in protecting the Capitals’ net since returning from a nagging groin injury. He’s won all four games during Washington’s run, posting a 1.23 goals-against average with one shutout.

His next victory will give Varlamov the longest winning streak of his brief career. He put together another stellar performance Wednesday, making 37 saves in a 4-1 win at St. Louis.

“I don’t concentrate on the winning streak,” Varlamov said through an interpreter. “I’ve been working as hard as I can and that’s what I’ve been doing since I got back.”

Varlamov lost his only start against the Stars (14-8-1) on March 8, making 23 saves and getting beat on two of five shootout attempts in a 4-3 home loss. Ovechkin scored two goals, but missed in the tiebreaker.

Washington won its last visit to Dallas, 6-5 in overtime on Oct. 25, 2008 on a goal by Alexander Semin(notes), who currently leads the Capitals with 18.

The Stars are looking for their first five-game winning streak since Jan. 21-Feb. 3, 2009. Dallas moved closer to matching it with a 4-1 win at Carolina on Monday, and has outscored opponents 11-5 during its run.

“The most satisfying thing was that it was a total team effort from us,” coach Marc Crawford said.

Kari Lehtonen(notes) is also providing strong play in goal for Dallas. He’s won three starts in a row with a 1.33 GAA, and is 5-0-1 with a 2.45 GAA in his last six home games. He hasn’t faced the Capitals since a 49-save performance in a 5-1 win with Atlanta on March 16, 2009.

James Neal(notes) scored twice in the win over the Hurricanes, giving him 10 this season. Neal is tied with Loui Eriksson(notes) for second on the club in goals, one behind Brad Richards(notes). Neal also scored in regulation against Varlamov in March.

Dallas has won seven of nine against Eastern Conference opponents this season.

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Thursday, Dec 2