The San Jose Sharks hope to clinch a winning road trip and continue their mastery in the all-time series when they visit the surging Washington Capitals on Monday. The Sharks have won four in a row overall against the Capitals and six straight in Washington as they try to recover from Saturday’s 5-2 setback at Tampa Bay - their first regulation loss in seven games.
San Jose entered the third period against the Lightning tied at 1-1 but gave up three consecutive goals as it ran out of gas in the second contest of a back-to-back set in the Sunshine State while missing four regulars due to injuries. “I don’t know how it looked, but it felt like we were a step slower than them all over the ice,” Sharks center Logan Couture told reporters. “They play fast. They move pucks well. Their forwards are quick through the neutral zone. They definitely skated around us for a lot of the game.” The Capitals outlasted Columbus 4-3 on Saturday for their fourth victory in five contests as they prepare to play their fifth consecutive opponent that entered Sunday sitting in a playoff position. “It’s hard to score on those teams,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told reporters. “They either have an exceptional goaltender or a good system, or a real good defense. … We have to work for our goals.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network, NBCSN California (San Jose), NBCSN Washington
ABOUT THE SHARKS (14-9-2): Joonas Donskoi (lower body), Melker Karlsson (cut), Mikkel Boedker (lower body) and defenseman Tim Heed (upper body) all missed Saturday’s game and are considered day-to-day. Martin Jones (98 career wins) did return after missing two games with a minor injury, stopping 30-of-31 shots over the first two periods to give the Sharks a chance, prompting coach Peter DeBoer to tell reporters: “You take him for granted, but he’s been like that all year for us.” Couture has been kept off the scoresheet in his last two games but leads the team with 21 points.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (15-11-1): Captain Alex Ovechkin is on a hot streak with six goals in his last five games and shares the NHL lead with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (19) while totaling 26 points. Evgeny Kuznetsov has scored three times in his last two contests and tops the team with 29 points while T.J. Oshie ranks third (23) after recording 11 over his last nine games. Defenseman John Carlson, who notched two assists on Saturday, and Nicklas Backstrom (five assists in five games) give Washington five players with at least 20 points through 27 contests.
1. Washington’s Chandler Stephenson (upper body) exited Saturday’s game and is day-to-day while fellow C Travis Boyd was recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League on Sunday.
2. San Jose C Joe Thornton, who needs two points to tie Dale Hawerchuk (1,409) for 19th place on the all-time list, was fined $5,000 for a slash in Saturday’s game.
3. Capitals G Braden Holtby is 10-3-0 after a 4-3-0 start but has gone 2-4-0 with an .875 save percentage in his career versus the Sharks.
PREDICTION: Capitals 4, Sharks 2