The Washington Capitals dropped back-to-back contests on the heels of a blistering stretch that saw them win 11 of 13 to resemble the form of a club that captured the Presidents’ Trophy on back-to-back occasions. The Capitals aim to get back on a track on Wednesday when they face the New York Rangers to conclude a four-game trek that wrapped around the Christmas break.
Washington looks to wake up from its slumber after sleepwalking to a 3-0 setback to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights prior to the break. “I thought our defense real early were real sleepy back there,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz told the Washington Post. “Some of it’s on them, and some of it’s on our forwards. Our forwards didn’t give them a lot of support.” That could be music to the ears of Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, who will skate in his 500th career NHL game on Wednesday and owns at least one point in seven of his last eight contests versus the Capitals. The minutes-eating defenseman skated in a team-high 25:36 of ice time as New York suffered its second straight loss with a 3-2 setback to Toronto on Saturday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (22-13-2): Alex Ovechkin had an assist in Washington’s 4-2 win over New York on Dec. 8, part of his 17-point performance (10 goals, seven assists) in a 12-game stretch before being held off the scoresheet in each of his last three outings. The three-time Hart Trophy winner isn’t the only one in a relative slump, as the Capitals are just 1-for-20 on the power play in their last eight games. Braden Holtby made 27 saves in the last encounter versus the Rangers, putting his mark at 9-9-1 against the club despite posting one shutout and a .918 save percentage.
ABOUT THE RANGERS (19-13-4): The Rangers had the winter break to stew over sustaining just their third loss in their last 15 home games (12-2-1). Pavel Buchnevich has given the fans at Madison Square Garden the most for which to cheer, registering 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 23 home games this season. The 22-year-old Russian has notched an assist in back-to-back contests, but was held off the scoresheet in the first meeting with the Capitals.
1. New York C J.T. Miller has recorded a point in eight of his last 12 contests (four goals, four assists).
2. Trotz resides one victory shy of tying Lindy Ruff (736) for fifth place on the NHL’s career wins list.
3. Rangers LW Jimmy Vesey has two goals and an assist during his career-high three-game point streak.
PREDICTION: Capitals 3, Rangers 2