Comfortably ahead in the Eastern Conference wild-card standings, the Washington Capitals will keep up their pursuit of a higher goal — third place in their division — when they host the Boston Bruins on Sunday.
The Capitals (39-22-10, 88 points) defeated the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 on Saturday for their second straight win and fourth in six games. It was also their fifth consecutive road victory.
The win pulled Washington to within four points of Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division and 13 ahead of the New York Islanders for the second wild-card berth.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season and eighth goal in his past 11 games. He was one of six Capitals players to light the lamp against Pittsburgh.
Tom Wilson matched his career-high with his 22nd goal of the season, and Marcus Johansson scored his first goal in seven games since being acquired from the Seattle Kraken at the trade deadline.
“It’s always nice to get that first one,” Johansson said. “It’s always fun to be part of scoring and all that, but as long as we win, I couldn’t care less.”
As the Capitals look for one of their two young goaltenders to take the reins before the playoffs, Ilya Samsonov got his second straight start on Saturday and made 29 saves while picking up his 50th career win.
Wilson said Samsonov “has so much natural skill and talent, but you really love when you see a teammate grind. In the second and third period, you just saw him battling. He was really comfortable back there.”
Vitek Vanecek will likely start on Sunday. He is 4-4 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .895 save percentage against the Bruins.
Boston (45-21-5, 95 points) enters Sunday with a one-point lead on the Tampa Bay Lightning for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins have won four of five, the latest a 2-1 overtime win against the host Lightning on Friday.
Jake DeBrusk — playing on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron — continued his torrid stretch, scoring his seventh goal in seven games. He has 22 goals overall, the second-highest total of his career behind the 27 he notched in his second NHL season in 2018-19. He has 10 points in those seven games.
“They make it look so easy when you’re watching,” DeBrusk said of his linemates. “When pucks aren’t going in the net — there was a little bit of a stretch when they weren’t … kind of happy that I’ve gone through these things where you don’t necessarily panic. It’s just matter of making sure they get their goals.”
Linus Ullmark, who made 28 saves on Friday night, will get his second straight start for Boston. He has won his past six starts.
“He’s played well,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said, comparing him with the team’s other goalie, Jeremy Swayman.
“Earlier, when (Swayman) got on a bit of a roll, gave him a few extra starts instead of just rotating. We’re gonna do the same thing for Linus.”
Ullmark is 4-4-1 with a 2.95 GAA and .891 save percentage versus the Capitals.
Boston will likely be without forward David Pastrnak (undisclosed illness), who is expected to miss his third consecutive game, and defenseman Hampus Lindholm (lower-body injury), who is expected to miss his second.
Capitals forward Conor Sheary (non-COVID-19 illness) missed the win over Pittsburgh.
–Field Level Media