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Capitals visit Hurricanes in key Southeast Division matchup

By Dan Pieringer

Stats Writer

Washington (45-22-6) at Carolina (38-28-7) 7:00 p.m. EDT

RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) -- The Washington Capitals have

experienced continued success on the road thanks in part to Alex

Ovechkin's prolific scoring.

The Capitals might need another strong outing from the NHL's top

scorer to keep the hot streak going in Raleigh.

In a matchup of Southeast Division teams battling for playoff

position, Ovechkin and the Capitals look for another strong

effort away from home Saturday night when they visit the

Carolina Hurricanes, winners of seven straight at the RBC

Center.

Washington has recorded a point in 10 of its last 11 road games,

going 8-1-2 in that stretch. Ovechkin helped extend the run of

road success with his league-leading 50th goal in a 5-2 victory

at Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who also had two assists, scored 7:43 into the first

period to become Washington's first three-time 50-goal scorer.

"It feels pretty good actually," the 23-year-old Russian star

said. "Today was a lucky goal, I think. It's done right now. No

pressure. Nothing."

Ovechkin might feel less pressure with that milestone out of the

way, but the Capitals' work isn't done. Washington's 13-point

lead over Carolina atop the Southeast appears safe, but the

Capitals are one point behind New Jersey for second in the

Eastern Conference and four behind frontrunning Boston.

Making up ground could be tough against a Hurricanes team that's

won seven straight in Raleigh to improve to 21-13-1 there this

season. Carolina hasn't had a longer home winning streak since

notching nine consecutive victories from December 31,

2005-January 28, 2006, en route to the franchise's lone Stanley

Cup.

Carolina is also 8-2-1 over its last 11 home games against

Washington, though the teams have split two meetings at the RBC

Center in 2008-09.

The Hurricanes' home streak appeared to be in jeopardy Friday

night. They blew a 2-0 first-period lead by giving up four

straight goals in the second before rallying to beat the New

York Islanders, 5-4.

Matt Cullen and Chad LaRose scored third-period goals - the

second of the game for each players - as Carolina prevailed

despite being outworked for much of the game.

"If we learned anything, it was that we can't take a lapse for

10, 15 minutes in a game," said winger Ray Whitney, who had

three assists. "If we do that against Washington, it's not 4-2,

it's 6-2. This gave us a little bit of humbling. We realized

we're only as good as how hard we work."

Friday's victory put the Hurricanes in sixth place in the East,

one point ahead of the New York Rangers and two in front of

Montreal. Whitney said the postseason chase is reason enough for

the Hurricanes to avoid any more problems with their effort.

"We just look at the board over there and realize where we are,"

he said.

Whitney has been Carolina's key to success against Washington

this season. The veteran was held scoreless as the Hurricanes

dropped the first two meetings in the series, but he's totaled

three goals and four assists to lead them to two wins and a

shootout loss in the last three.

Ovechkin has two goals and eight assists in five games against

Carolina this season. If he scores Saturday, he might avoid

turning to one of his sometimes theatrical celebrations.

Ovechkin reacted to Friday's goal by putting his stick on the

ice and pretending to warm his hands over it. Lightning coach

Rick Tocchet was upset about the unsportsmanlike display, and

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he planned to speak to

Ovechkin about it.

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