Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens are coming off a much-needed win but might seek a better performance. Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are trying to rebound from their first bad one in quite some time.
In a key matchup of teams with tenuous division leads, Ovechkin tries to help the Capitals continue their recent dominance in Montreal on Saturday night.
While the Canadiens (27-12-5) have clinched a postseason berth, they have a two-point lead atop the Northeast Division but second-place Boston has two games in hand. Washington (24-18-2) is only two points clear of being out of playoff position while clinging to a two-point lead over Winnipeg in the Southeast, and those teams square off Monday in the nation’s capital.
Ovechkin’s red-hot play powered Washington to an eight-game winning streak, but that ended Thursday with a 3-1 loss at Ottawa. His minus-3 rating matched a season worst as the Capitals tied a season low with 19 shots, and the former Hart Trophy winner admitted his team seemed to lack emotion.
“We didn’t make a lot of shots on them and we didn’t have a very good start,” said Ovechkin, who went pointless for the third time in 17 games.
Saturday’s game is the only one of Washington’s final four which comes on the road, and the Capitals have won five straight in Montreal by a 15-4 score. They are 8-1-1 in their last 10 visits, including the postseason.
Ovechkin scored on Price in a 3-2 victory April 9 in the teams’ only meeting at Bell Centre this season. Price did make 30 saves in a 4-1 win at Washington on Jan. 24, but that’s his only victory in his last six starts versus the Capitals. He’s 1-5-2 with a 3.58 goals-against average in eight home starts against Washington, including playoffs, and has lost the last five.
Price had lost four in a row overall, posting a 6.05 GAA, before making 32 saves in a 3-2 home win over Tampa Bay on Thursday. He benefited from three shots hitting the post - in the first period alone - against a Lightning team which has been eliminated from the playoff chase.
“I’m really satisfied and proud of Carey Price,” coach Michel Therrien said. “He bounced back. It was lucky at times, but you need some breaks to win.”
The Canadiens had given up 18 goals during a three-game losing streak before Thursday.
“It was a bit of a tough week, obviously, when you get 18 goals scored on you in three games,” Price said. “It’s tough, but as a professional, you have to keep battling through it.”
Ovechkin, meanwhile, is looking to avoid going consecutive games without scoring for the first time since March 9-12. He tops the NHL with 28 goals and 15 on the power play.
Montreal’s last four opponents are 6 for 20 with the man advantage, and Washington leads the league with a 25.3 percent success rate.
“He’s alright, but I definitely gave him a bruise so I hope everything’s OK,” Green said of Backstrom, who has 13 points in 11 career games at Montreal.
Brian Gionta scored twice Thursday for Montreal, including the game-winner with 47 seconds remaining.
“It’s big for our confidence,” Gionta said. “When you lose a few tough games, you lose that little edge, so it’s nice to get that back.”