After flustering the NHL’s leading team, the Washington Capitals look to end a three-game road losing skid on Saturday when they visit the another Eastern Conference power in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Alex Ovechkin has scored in back-to-back games on the heels of a six-game goal drought, but the three-time Hart Trophy winner joined the rest of his mates in being shut out by Toronto on Oct. 17.
That effort by the Capitals in the first encounter between the teams since they ousted the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs was decidedly different than the one they put forth versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. “If we put in the work night in and night out, we will have success. If we don‘t, we won‘t,” coach Barry Trotz said after Washington outshot Tampa Bay 16-3 over the final 13 1/2 minutes to post a 3-1 win on Friday. Nazem Kadri has been putting in the work, extending his career-high point streak to nine games with an assist as Toronto improved to 7-1-1 during that stretch with a 5-4 victory over Carolina on Friday. The 27-year-old has collected five goals and as many assists during his point streak and sealed the win in the first encounter versus Washington by scoring into an empty net.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network, CBC (Toronto), NBCSN Washington-Plus
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (13-10-1): Nicklas Backstrom is no stranger to setting up Ovechkin for a goal, as 219 of the Swedish Olympian’s assists have been as a result of the Russian finding the back of the net. Ovechkin netted his 573rd career goal to move into a tie with Hall of Famer Mike Bossy for 21st place all-time, and that deadlock may not last long if history is an indication. Ovechkin has recorded 33 goals and 60 points in 43 career meetings with the Maple Leafs.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (15-8-1): James van Riemsdyk has collected seven goals and two assists in his last nine outings after notching one of each against the Hurricanes. Fellow forward Patrick Marleau moved within two points of 1,100 in his career after recording his seventh in nine games with his ninth goal of the season. The 38-year-old’s tally was the 102nd game-winning goal of his NHL career, moving him past Jarome Iginla into sole possession of seventh place in NHL history.
1. Washington G Braden Holtby has won eight of his last 10 starts, permitting two goals or fewer in all but one of the victories.
2. Maple Leafs G Frederik Andersen turned aside all 30 shots he faced in the first encounter versus the Capitals and stopped 26 of 27 in the first two periods before holding on for a 43-save performance against Carolina.
3. Washington RW Devante Smith-Pelly scored his third goal of the season on Friday, moving one shy of his output in 53 games in 2016-17 with New Jersey.
PREDICTION: Capitals 3, Maple Leafs 1