During their week-long, three-game road trip last week, the Washington Capitals showed glimpses of their high-octane offense while also sticking to their new defensive style. With momentum seemingly on their side for the first time in 2011, the Caps hope to build their confidence with a home win Monday against the New York Rangers.
Washington ended its road trip 2-0-1; after a 3-2 overtime loss to Philadelphia that saw them struggle to score until the end of the game, the Capitals finally scored first and led throughout in a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders Thursday and a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday. Against the Islanders, Nicklas Backstrom scored for the first time since December 1 and against the Leafs, Alex Ovechkin had his first hat trick of the season and first multi-goal game since October 30. Thursday and Saturday's wins were the Caps' first back-to-back wins since December 28-January 1.
Based on Bruce Boudreau's superstitious nature, perhaps Braden Holtby will be in goal for the Caps. Holtby earned victories in Washington's last two games by stopping 59 of 61 shots he faced.
Regardless of goaltender, the Capitals will face a Rangers team that they've dominated in recent memory; the Caps are 9-2-1 in their last 12 meetings with New York during the regular season. Yet, the Rangers dominated the Capitals in their most recent meeting, a 7-0 blowout December 12. That game wasn't even the Rangers' only 7-0 win this season. Just last week, New York defeated Toronto by the same score, punctuated by Marian Gaborik's four goal outburst.
Other than that win, however, not much has been going well for New York. The Rangers have lost three of five and currently sit in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of eighth place Atlanta and seven points ahead of ninth place Carolina. As Washington sits in second place in the Southeast Division trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by three points, Monday's game has serious standings implications. A win for New York would put them a point behind Washington, while a win for the Caps would put them one point behind the Lightning.