WASHINGTON – In their quest to set the NHL record for consecutive wins, the Washington Capitals face a familiar obstacle Sunday: Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Capitals have won 13 straight, four short of matching the longest run in NHL history. That mark was set by the 1992-93 Penguins, and now the current-day version of that team has a chance to preserve that mark – weather permitting.
The nation’s capital was buried under nearly 60 centimetres of snow Saturday, leaving open the possibility that Pittsburgh might not get into Washington after playing in Montreal on Saturday afternoon.
This game is too big to let a little thing like a blizzard to get in the way.
“Home ice, Super Bowl Sunday, a nationally televised game. It’s something all the players get up for,” Capitals general manager George McPhee said. “That should be an exciting game for us and a great test.”
It’s a matchup worthy of Super Bowl Sunday: The best team in hockey against the defending NHL champions, who eliminated Washington from the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. Although a victory won’t serve as revenge for the Capitals, it would at least be an indication that there’s been a shift of power within the Eastern Conference.
“It’s going to be a pretty big battle and a fun game,” said Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, the NHL leader with 39 goals.
With Ovechkin at the forefront, the Capitals lead the league in points, wins and goals. They are 22-3-3 at home and have won 10 straight at Verizon Center.
And now they’re on the verge of a history-making winning streak.
“It’s a neat thing to be a part of,” McPhee said. “You don’t plan on being involved in something like this. But now that we’re in it, let’s see what we can do with it.”
The Capitals have outscored the opposition 62-29 during their winning streak, which has featured several blowouts but has not been without some close calls. Washington rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the New York Rangers on Thursday night and needed a shootout to defeat Florida in January.
The Capitals are looking to remain on course to make history. As usual, the Penguins stand in their way.
“Well, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions. I don’t know, but I’ve got to believe, even if they say we’re not a big rival of theirs, that they would take an awful lot of pleasure in beating us on Sunday in our building,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So, it’ll be a big one.”
Even if the Capitals win, their path to 17 won’t get any easier. Road games at Montreal, Ottawa and St. Louis follow before the Olympic break.
Washington hasn’t lost since Jan. 12 at Tampa Bay. It’s been a great run, but after the disappointment of being bounced by the Penguins in the post-season, the Capitals know being successful in April and May is all that counts.
“We want to win, but the most important thing is to win in the future,” Ovechkin said. “Right now we keep winning, but we’re thinking about the playoffs and what we have to do to be better in the playoffs.”