Alex Ovechkin returned to the Washington Capitals only to find his team in an unfamiliar situation, mired in a lengthy losing streak and a seller ahead of next week’s trade deadline.
Rapidly fading in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Capitals are mired in their first six-game regulation losing streak of Ovechkin’s career heading into a visit from the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
Ovechkin missed four games following the death of his father in Russia and rejoined the Capitals on Thursday when they allowed the final three goals of a 4-2 home loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Ovechkin was held without a goal for a fifth straight game, and Washington’s latest loss occurred after dealing Garnet Hathaway along with longtime defenseman Dmitry Orlov to the league-leading Boston Bruins.
The streak is Washington’s longest skid of regulation losses since Oct. 14-29, 2003, when they were engaged in a full-blown rebuild that eventually netted them Ovechkin with the top overall pick of the 2004 draft.
During the streak, the Capitals are getting outscored 24-10 and are looking to avoid a seventh straight regulation loss for the first time since an eight-game skid from Jan. 1-13, 1990.
Washington also is 8-13-2 since its second five-game winning streak Dec. 17-27 that culminated in a 4-0 rout of the Rangers in New York. That was a part of a stretch of 10 wins in 11 games (10-1-0), and the Capitals have gone from third place in the Metropolitan to two points behind the suddenly surging Detroit Red Wings for the second wild-card spot.
“We still have a chance to make the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “You never know what’s gonna happen. We just will continue to play. Nothing we can do. We players, we have to play the game and it’s not our job to make a decision.”
The Rangers added Vladimir Tarasenko in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9 and are rumored to be in the mix for Patrick Kane if the Chicago Blackhawks star waives his no-trade clause.
In the meantime, they are hoping to avoid losing three straight in regulation for the second time this season. New York dropped three straight in regulation Nov. 23-28 against Anaheim, Edmonton and New Jersey and is also looking to avoid its second four-game skid with the other occurring when it went 0-2-2 from Oct. 20-26.
New York took a 3-2 overtime loss in Calgary last Saturday that extended its points streak to 10 games.The Rangers are coming off consecutive 4-1 losses marking the second time under coach Gerard Gallant they took consecutive defeats by at least three goals.
After collecting a season-high 51 shots but constantly getting denied by Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck on Monday, the Rangers took 31 shots in a 4-1 loss at Detroit on Thursday. Gallant said the Rangers did not show up in that loss, which dropped them six points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils in the Metropolitan.
“A little too sloppy,” New York captain Jacob Trouba said. “Not our best game for sure. I think we’ve had a couple now that we lost, and we’ve got to get back on track.”
–Field Level Media