The Washington Capitals will be glad to return home after a bit of a rough trip. They went 2-3-0 in games against the Rangers, Devils and Islanders.
But they’ll be back in Washington on Thursday night against a Boston Bruins team that is coming off a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. The Caps, meanwhile, want to return to playing more consistent hockey after the Islanders beat them 1-0 Tuesday.
Washington will play three of its next five games at home, and even though they are tied for first in the East Division — with the Islanders — the Caps recently struggled on the road. The defense and offense experienced some trouble coming together.
“I think we did our job against Jersey, got out of there with two wins,” Washington’s Lars Eller said. “I think the other games, the New York games, we didn’t play up to the level we are capable of. So, yeah, we didn’t hit our stride. Weren’t good enough, basically. We could be better than we showed those three games.”
Things could have been worse if goalies Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov hadn’t played well most of the time. Vanecek made 38 saves — 19 in the third period of Tuesday’s loss to the Islanders — to keep the Capitals in the game.
The offense has been up and down. Alex Ovechkin had been on a roll but has just one goal in the past five games. He’s always been a streaky player, however, so playing three of the next five at home could be a positive for him and the rest of the Capitals.
Washington also will face an interesting decision with the trade deadline coming up. Will the Caps be content entering the playoffs with these two young goalies or will they trade for a veteran netminder?
Samsonov and Vanecek have played solid hockey most of the season, but can they carry Washington in the playoffs? The Caps have to make that decision shortly.
The Bruins have split their past eight games but scored a big victory in Philadelphia in their most recent game. Patrice Bergeron registered a hat trick while Brad Marchand notched the tiebreaking, short-handed goal along with three assists in the win.
The goal that put Boston ahead came 8:21 into the final period — the 29th short-handed goal of Marchand’s career — and he’s already tops in Bruins’ history in that department.
But the goal was his 48th point in a short-handed situation, pushing him into first place in franchise history. He moved by Eddie Westfall and Bobby Orr for that honor.
Meanwhile, Bergeron registered career hat trick No. 6 and earned his 900th NHL point. He now is just the fourth Bruins to reach that milestone — Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk and Phil Esposito are the others.
But the story of this game was the play of rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman, who made 40 stops in his first game, earning the win.
“My mentality throughout the game was don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” Swayman said. “Learned that from (assistant coach) Alfie Michaud back at Maine, and that’s going to stick with me for a long time. Just one shot at a time.”
Boston did get Kevan Miller back after he sat out 20 games due to knee problems. But Charlie McAvoy sat out of this game because of an upper-body injury. Coach Bruce Cassidy said McAvoy is day-to-day.