One week ago, there was no hotter team in the NHL than the Chicago Blackhawks.
That distinction now belongs to the Washington Capitals.
The Southeast Division-leading Capitals look to win an eighth straight game Sunday when they host a Blackhawks team hoping to get back on track following a disappointing trip to the state of Florida.
Washington (39-20-10) again needed a comeback to extend its winning streak after trailing Carolina 1-0 through two periods Friday. Alex Ovechkin(notes) tied the game 47 seconds into the third and Matt Hendricks(notes) scored the game-winner on a rebound with 12:36 left in the Capitals’ 2-1 victory.
Washington has had to rally from a deficit in six of the victories during its season-best seven-game winning streak. With this late-season push, the Capitals are now challenging Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference’s best record.
“I think we’re all happy it’s not November right now or December throwing this streak together,” right wing Mike Knuble(notes) said. “I think we want to really start playing well towards the end of the year.”
The Blackhawks (37-24-7) are in a similar position, having earned a point in 13 of 15 (10-2-3).
After sitting outside the top eight in the West for several weeks, Chicago used a season-best eight-game winning streak from Feb. 20-March 5 to vault into the thick of the playoff picture, but has since lost two straight.
The Blackhawks, who visited President Obama at the White House on Friday to be recognized for winning last season’s Stanley Cup, haven’t played since losing to Tampa Bay 4-3 in a shootout Wednesday.
“It’s tough because we worked really hard to get back in that game,” said Toews, who has nine goals and nine assists in his last 11 contests.
Crawford was pulled before the start of the second period in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Florida after stopping just 5 of 8 shots. The rookie then yielded three goals in the first 22 minutes against the Lightning.
While Crawford has been a little shaky lately, Washington’s rookie goaltender has been outstanding.
Braden Holtby(notes), expected to make his third straight start, made 40 saves Friday after stopping 22 shots to earn his first career shutout in Wednesday’s 5-0 win over Edmonton. He is 5-0-1 with a 0.69 goals-against average and one shutout in his last six games.
“We have three really good goalies, and he obviously doesn’t want to leave the net, so he’s doing a good job,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of Holtby.
The Capitals and Blackhawks haven’t met since Washington’s 4-3 overtime win in Chicago last March 14.
Nicklas Backstrom(notes), out with a thumb injury, scored the winner to help the Capitals rally from a 3-0 third-period deficit. Washington mounted the comeback without Ovechkin, who received a game misconduct and was later suspended for two games for knocking Chicago’s Brian Campbell(notes) into the boards from behind in the first period.
This is the first meeting between these teams in Washington since Ovechkin scored twice in 4-2 victory in the 2008-09 home opener.
Ovechkin has notched at least one point in seven consecutive games and 11 of 12. The two-time Hart Trophy winner has four goals and seven assists during Washington’s winning streak.