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The Washington Capitals face the Anaheim Ducks for the second and final time this season when the two face off against one another on Sunday night. Despite having a 5-1 lead in the second period, the Capitals fell 6-5 in regulation the first time they saw the Ducks this season back on December 2. Action from Honda Center in Anaheim will begin at 9 PM ET and can be seen on NBC Sports Washington.
The Capitals continue a season-long six-game road trip on Sunday night. After opening it with a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the team turned in one of their most dominant performances of the season in a 5-1 win over the San Jose Sharks, who own the best home record in the NHL, at the SAP Center on Thursday. This will be the first game of a back-to-back for the Capitals as they head to the City of Angels to face the Los Angeles Kings for the second time in a week’s span on Monday night.
Captain Alex Ovechkin can become the first player in the NHL to hit the 40-goal mark this season if he scores on Sunday. He has posted six goals, 14 points, and a -2 rating in his past 10 games, including a goal and an assist against the Sharks on Thursday. The 33-year-old leads the Capitals with 66 points this season. Defenseman John Carlson and center Nicklas Backstrom co-lead the Capitals with 42 assists each this season.
After posting one goal and seven points in a 16-game span in December and early January, center Evgeny Kuznetsov enters Sunday’s game with seven goals, 16 points, and a +6 rating in his past 10 games, which has him back to his usual point-per-game scoring pace (1.04). He has a multi-point effort in five of his past 10 games and has been held off of the scoresheet only twice in that span, both of which were games the Capitals were shutout in. The 26-year old center has 15 goals and 54 points in 52 games overall this season.
The Capitals rank seventh in the NHL with an average of 3.34 goals-per-game and have scored at least three goals in nine of their last 11 games after getting limited to four goals in a span of four games in mid-January. The team entered Saturday night three points behind the New York Islanders for first in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals and Islanders will have each played 58 games this season entering Sunday.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 20-14-4 with a save percentage of .908, a goals-against average of 2.99, and two shutouts this season, will start against the Ducks tomorrow night. He made 25 saves in the Capitals’ 5-1 win over the Sharks on Thursday, his last start. In six career appearances against the Ducks, the 29-year old netminder is 3-3-0 with a save percentage of .856 and a goals-against average of 3.81, including a 19-save performance in the 6-5 loss to the Ducks on December 2.
The Ducks conclude a three-game homestand against the Capitals on Sunday. They split the first two games of the homestand, beating the Vancouver Canucks 1-0 on Wednesday before getting shutout by the Boston Bruins by a score of 3-0 on Friday night. The team is 11-9-8 at the Duck Pond this season.
After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, where they were swept by the Sharks in Round 1 last April, the Ducks entered Saturday with 53 points, just one more than the Kings for the fewest in the Western Conference. The Ducks have won just three of their last 23 games (3-16-4), which included a franchise-record 12-game losing streak in January (0-8-4), entering Sunday.
The Ducks’ average of 2.16 goals-per-game and 27.4 shots-per-game are each the worst in the NHL this season, though they rank fourth with a 52% faceoff winning percentage. Their power-play efficiency of 14.3% is the third-worst rate in the NHL, only above the Montreal Canadiens (13.3%) and Nashville Predators (12.9%).
Only one player on their roster has more than 20 assists and 30 points this season: center Ryan Getzlaf (25 assists and 36 points in 52 games). No player on the Ducks has yet to reach the 15-goal plateau this season, though forward Ondrej Kase would be on pace for 21 had he not missed a game so far this season (11 goals in 30 games). Forward Jakob Silfverberg, who could find himself on the move at the NHL Trade Deadline next week as he can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, leads the Ducks with 13 goals this season.
With star goaltender John Gibson out, rookie goaltender Kevin Boyle, who has posted a 1-1-0 record with a .955 save percentage and a 1.51 goals-against average in his first two NHL appearances, will likely start against the Capitals. In his first career start, the 26-year old posted 35 saves against the Canucks for his first career NHL shutout. In 30 games with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls this season, Boyle went 19-7-0 with a save percentage of .909 and a goals-against average of 2.72.
-Carlson enters Sunday two assists away from 300 in his NHL career
-Since February 1, the Capitals have killed off 19 of 21 penalties (90.5% efficiency)
-The Capitals’ 76 second-period goals this season rank first in the NHL
A Look Back In Time
After the Ducks took the lead in the first minute of the game, forward Andre Burakovsky finished off a three-way passing play with Kuznetsov and forward Justin Williams 40 seconds into the third period. The game would go to a shootout, where the Capitals would get goals from forward T.J. Oshie and Backstrom to go on to win 2-1. The win would end the Ducks’ 10-game winning streak. Holtby played a strong game, making 27 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown