Senators return home to host Capitals
Washington Capitals rookie head coach Dale Hunter might not have assumed his hiring would immediately end the struggles of the squad he inherited, though losing three of his first four games may not be what he envisioned, either.
Washington faces the only team it has defeated since Hunter took over when it visits the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night.
Hunter's tenure with the Capitals has gotten off to a rocky start since replacing the fired Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 28, going 1-3-0 with each contest decided by one goal.
Washington (13-12-1) allowed the game's first three goals to Florida before falling 5-4 on Monday.
"We battled, we get back in the third, inches away from tying it up," Hunter said. "The boys showed a lot of character that way."
Brooks Laich, who scored for the second straight game, did not view the result as positively even though the Capitals finished strong with a 13-6 shots advantage in the third period while outscoring the Panthers 2-0.
"It's not acceptable to play hockey for 20 minutes and not the other 40," Laich said. "You judge yourself by your results, not your intentions.
"We're not satisfied at all."
Washington is 3-8-1 in its last 12 games, a stretch during which Alexander Ovechkin has scored only one goal.
Ovechkin has no points and a minus-11 rating during the Capitals' five-game road losing streak, their worst since dropping nine straight March 6-31, 2007. They've given up 24 goals during this road skid as opponents have gone 8 for 20 on the power play. Washington is scoreless in 23 straight power-play chances on the road.
The Capitals have lost five of six in Ottawa, but posted home wins in both meetings this season, including a 3-2 victory Saturday as Laich scored in overtime to give Hunter his first NHL coaching victory. Nicklas Backstrom scored in that meeting as well as in a 2-1 victory Oct. 15 over the Senators (13-11-3).
Ottawa opened a stretch in which it plays 11 of 15 at home with a 4-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Monday.
The Senators, 6-2-2 in their last 10, rallied from one down in the third period as Nick Foligno had the go-ahead goal with 4:27 to play and Zack Smith scored his second goal of the game 46 seconds later.
"Coming out on top, it wasn't one of our best games, but it's nice coming home after a long road trip and winning right away," said Daniel Alfredsson, who scored his first goal since Nov. 15.
Craig Anderson made 31 saves and added his career high-tying third assist. He's 6-2-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average in his last nine starts.
"He's been keeping us in the games until the third when, unfortunately, sometimes it takes us 40 minutes to get going and capitalize on our chances, but good goaltenders help you win games like that," Smith said.
Anderson made 35 saves in the loss to the Capitals on Saturday and is 4-1-1 with a 2.65 GAA in his last six starts against them. However, the Senators have lost five of the last six meetings with Washington.
Both teams come into this matchup struggling on the power play. Ottawa is 2 for 29 over its last nine games and Washington is 2 for 47 over its last 13.