Capitals Have Golden Opportunity With Next Two Games


Nov 18, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. The Capitals defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in the Barry Trotz era, the Washington Capitals have won two consecutive games in regulation. The Caps beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1, on Thursday before traveling to New Jersey and handing the Devils a 4-1 loss.

Those two wins, to go along with a loss against Detroit and a win against Pittsburgh over the weekend by the New York Rangers, has the Capitals in a tie for third place in the Metropolitan Division with 28 points.

Washington will remain on the road for its third straight game Tuesday night when they take on a former divisional rival in the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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Then on Thursday, the Caps will return to the Verizon Center to host the Columbus Blue Jackets.

And while the Capitals will be playing two games in three days, the Rangers will be watching, as they don’t play another game until Saturday, when they start a four-game road trip in Vancouver.

If Barry Trotz can help his team get a couple of points over the next two games, the Caps can create a slight advantage – keyword “slight” – over the Rangers in the standings.

But getting just one point will be a tough task in Tampa. The Lightning are tied with the Red Wings for first in the tightly-contested Atlantic Division and lead the NHL in goals per game with 3.46. They give up exactly one less goal per game (2.46), which ranks them 10th in the league.

One way the Caps can get ahead of the Lightning is with the power play. Washington ranks second in the NHL in power play percentage (.282), while Tampa’s penalty kill is mediocre compared to the rest of the NHL (18th at .804).

Both these teams met in Tampa Bay already this season, when the Capitals blew a 1-0 lead in the second period to fall 4-3.

If Washington can come away with a point, or two, against Tampa, the Capitals will have to avoid a letdown against a far lesser opponent in Columbus at home on Thursday.

The Blue Jackets sit at 9-15-2 on the season, just one point ahead of Carolina for last place in the Metropolitan Division.

Washington faced a similar situation on Nov. 22, when the Caps lost at home to Buffalo after defeating Arizona and Colorado.

The Capitals are being handed a golden chance to move into sole possession of third place in the division. And although it’s still early into December, securing third place in the division is key for Washington, as there are currently three other teams in the Atlantic Division outside of the top-three that have more points than the Capitals – Toronto, Boston and Florida.