Capitals-Canadiens Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Capitals' pursuit of a fifth straight Southeast Division title has stalled a bit due to their struggles away from home.

Beating the Montreal Canadiens on the road, however, hasn't been a problem recently.

Washington looks to end a four-game road skid by earning its fourth consecutive victory in Montreal when the teams meet Saturday afternoon.

The Capitals (26-20-4) fell a point behind first-place Florida after a 4-2 defeat against the Panthers on Wednesday, dropping to 8-14-3 away from the Verizon Center.

Washington hopes to avoid tying its season-worst five-game road skid from Nov. 15-Dec. 5. It never went more than three games without a win away from the nation's capital the last two seasons.

"It's frustrating. This game could have been a catapult to shoot us off the second half,'' said Brooks Laich, who scored his 10th goal. "We're back chasing again. Lack of success on the road is not acceptable.''

Coach Dale Hunter said his team played well against Florida and in a 4-3 overtime loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but simply came up short.

"(Tuesday) we had some chances. (Wednesday) we had some good scoring chances,'' Hunter said. "It's tough, everyone wants to win, and it comes down to execution.''

The Capitals' last road win came Jan. 18 in Montreal, when Alex Ovechkin's goal helped them to a 3-0 victory. That improved Washington to 6-1-1 in its last eight on the road - including the postseason - versus the Canadiens.

Montreal (19-23-9) looks to end Washington's stretch of dominance on its home ice while attempting to bounce back from a 5-3 loss to New Jersey on Thursday.

The Canadiens have lost two straight after going into the All-Star break with consecutive victories. They took a 2-0 lead in the first period but failed to hang on.

"It's tough to swallow,'' coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "We battled, worked hard. I liked our start. We responded the way we wanted. We deserved a better outcome. The first thing is effort. They responded tonight.''

The Canadiens sit in a tie for last place in the Eastern Conference, though Cunneyworth doesn't believe his squad is out of the playoff race just yet.

"Right now we're working on everybody getting in the right frame of mind in a very short period of time," he told the team's official website. "We've got two afternoon games coming up here - and nobody said it going to be easy, but if we stick together we can battle through this by committee."

Lars Eller, who doesn't have a point in his last two games after notching two goals and an assist in his previous three, said the players are on board with Cunneyworth's message.

"Yes, we know we're in a pretty big hole, but we're trying hard not to look too closely at the standings and take things a game at a time," Eller said.

Montreal likely will need some improvement from a power-play unit that has gone 1 for 20 during a 2-3-1 stretch in its last six home games.

Washington has also struggled with the man advantage lately, going 1 for 21 over its last eight games. The lone conversion was Ovechkin's goal against the Canadiens.

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