The Capitals (40-9-4, 84 points) will try to end a perfect three-game road trip tonight when they take on the Dallas Stars (35-15-5, 75 points) at American Airlines Center (7:30 p.m. pregame, CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
On a roll: The Caps have won five straight games, with four of them decided by one goal. They are now 17-2-4 in games decided by one goal. Their 40 wins (with 29 games to play) are two more than they had two seasons ago under Adam Oates.
But so are the Stars: Dallas has won five of its last six games and is coming off a big 4-2 win over the Blackhawks Thursday night in Chicago. Patrick Eaves netted a hat trick in the win.
Leaders of the pack: The Caps’ 40 wins in 53 games are the most in NHL history. Their 84 points through 53 games are the most since the 2008-09 Boston Bruins, who also had 84 points after 53 games. The Capitals have also earned a point in 31 of their last 35 games (28-4-3) and have outscored their opponents 122-79 during that span.
Coaching legends: Stars coach Lindy Ruff ranks sixth on the NHL’s all-time wins list with a 687-509-78-110 record. Caps coach Barry Trotz ranks 10th all-time at 642-514-60-115.
Milestone watch: Nicklas Backstrom is one goal away from passing Kelly Miller (162) for 12th on the Caps’ all-time list.
Three’s company: Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick on Thursday night against the Wild was the 125th in Capitals history and third this season, joining Evgeny Kuznetsov on Oct. 23 at Edmonton and Justin Williams on Jan. 17 at home against the Rangers. Ovechkin passed Mike Gartner (13) for second-most hat tricks in franchise history, behind Peter Bondra (19).
Where they stand: The Caps lead the NHL in goals per game (3.30) and power-play percentage (24.2), and rank tied for second in goals-against per game (2.26) and fifth in penalty kill percentage (83.8). The Stars rank second in the NHL in goals per game (3.24) and fifth in power-play percentage (22.1), while ranking 14th in goals-agfainst per game (2.67) and 21st on the penalty kill (80.0). The Stars have scored 180 goals, two more than the Caps for most in the league. They are also one point behind the Central Division-leading Blackhawks.
Last we met: The Stars handed the Caps a 3-2 loss on Nov. 19 on goals by Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin. Backstrom and Ovechkin had goals for the Caps and Philipp Grubauer was in goal.
Road warriors: The Caps are an NHL best 20-5-2 on the road this season and their 20 road wins are the most road victories through a team’s first 27 road games in NHL history. The Caps are also 10-2-2 against the Western Conference this season.