Tonight in Ottawa, the Capitals will try to continue a trend that at the start of the season seemed next to impossible.
Back in September, Caps coach Barry Trotz added what seemed like an unreachable goal to his list of team incentives: going the entire season without back-to-back losses. Technically, the Caps have failed to reach that goal. They have suffered consecutive losses three times this season.
But they have yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation, a feat that has not been accomplished since the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens and a feat that will be put to the test again tonight against the Senators (6:30 p.m., Pregame Live, CSN).
“I thought this team was capable of it,” said Trotz, who saw his team suffer a 6-2 setback in Pittsburgh on Sunday. “I thought we were a good enough team and a deep enough team to pull it off, so we added it to the repertoire.
“I didn’t know in the past if we were capable of doing that. I just felt this team, the way it was built, I thought it would be a pretty good challenge for them.”
Following regulation losses the Caps are 13-0-1 this season and have outscored opponents 49-24 in those games, holding opponents to two or fewer goals in 12 of those 14 games.
“Obviously, we bought into it,” said Capitals right wing Jay Beagle, who is expected to drop from the top line to ther third line tonight against the Senators. “Losing two in a row can turn into three and you’re not playing within yourselves anymore because you’re trying to get out of that slump.
“I think it’s been huge. Once we lose one we’re always reminded, ‘Hey we don’t lose two in a row.’ We get refocused and make sure we get that win. We go a lot harder in that second game and make sure we fight for it.”
The goaltending of Braden Holtby has a lot to do with the Caps’ ability to bounce back. In games following his own losses this season, Holtby is a perfect 12-0-0 and has allowed just 21 goals, never more than two in a game. Holtby is expected to get his 59th start of the season tonight and is seeking his 44th win, four short of the NHL single season record held by Marty Brodeur (2006-07).
It will be interesting to see how Holtby, who allowed five goals on 19 shots on Sunday, and the Capitals respond to their most lopsided loss since the second game of the regular season.
“I think it’s very important that you don’t let things slide,” Trotz said. “’Hey, we lost two we’ll get it back. We lost three, we’ll get it back.’ Let’s stop things that are going wrong. You can walk away sometimes saying, ‘We played great, but we lost.’ And then you lose the next game and the next game and all of a sudden you’ve lost three games when you’ve played OK.
“Whether we play good or bad, if we lose a game the next game is the most important and I think that’s very important for preparation for a playoff series. You lose a game, let’s not lose two. Always try to win your next game up. Always try to win our last game of the season. And if you do that, you have a chance.”