The Washington Capitals host the Montreal Canadiens for the final meeting between the two teams this season on Thursday night. After the Canadiens took a wild contest by a score of 6-4 at Bell Centre on November 1, the Capitals responded by overcoming a two-goal deficit in the second period en route to a 5-4 overtime win in Montreal 18 days later. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington locally or NBCSN nationally beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Canadiens head out for their final road game of the season in their lone visit to the United States’ capital on Thursday night. They are mediocre away from Bell Centre this season, just posting a record of 19-17-4. In addition, the Canadiens have won only two of their past seven road games (2-4-1). They conclude the regular season at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
With a regulation loss against the Capitals on Thursday and a Columbus Blue Jackets win at the New York Rangers on Friday, the Canadiens will be eliminated from contention in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While they may be able to tie the Blue Jackets in points, Columbus will have the advantage in regulation-overtime wins by a total of 44-41 in the first tie-breaker. The Canadiens have won two in a row and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
Center Max Domi, arguably one of the biggest breakout players in the NHL this season, leads the Canadiens with 43 assists and 70 points, 13 more than forward Tomas Tatar, who’s right behind him for the team lead. His +19 rating is third on the Canadiens right behind Tatar’s +22 and center Philipp Danault’s +20. Forward Brendan Gallagher leads the Canadiens with 33 goals but has been held off of the scoresheet entirely in each of the past two games.
After the Canadiens’ goals-per-game average of 2.52 last season was the third-lowest in the NHL, their average of 3.00 is the 14th-most in the league this year. Their 2.86 goals-against per game average is the 13th-lowest this season after their average of 3.15 was the seventh-highest worst last year, when they finished 15th in the Eastern Conference with 71 points. Their power-play efficiency of 12.5% is the worst in the league but their average of 33.9 shots-per-game is the third-highest only behind the Carolina Hurricanes (34.6) and Vegas Golden Knights (34.3).
Goaltender Carey Price, who is 35-23-6 with a save percentage of .917, a goals-against average of 2.50, and two shutouts this season, will likely start against the Capitals on Thursday. In his career against the Capitals, the 31-year old is 7-13-5 with a save percentage of .889, a goals-against average of 3.39, and one shutout. He made 29 saves on 34 shots in the Capitals’ 5-4 overtime win in Montreal the last time the two teams met.
The Capitals conclude the season with a set of back-to-back home games after going 2-1-0 on a three-game Southeastern road-trip and begin a four-game homestand counting that they will host the first two games of their First Round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They have gone 10-2-3 on home-ice since January 22 and are 23-10-6 overall at Capital One Arena this season. The Capitals close out the regular season against the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL with 51 goals and the Capitals with 89 points in 79 games this season. He has recorded five goals and 12 points over his past 11 games, including three goals and six points in his past five. Defenseman John Carlson leads the Capitals with 57 assists and is one of three players on the team to eclipse the 50-assist plateau along with centers Nicklas Backstrom (52) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (51).
Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers marked the 18th time in the last 19 games in which the Capitals scored at least three goals. They have averaged 3.77 goals-per-game over that stretch and 3.40 goals-per-game this season, which is the fifth-most in the NHL. The team has seven forwards with at least 20 goals: Ovechkin, forward T.J. Oshie (25), forwards Jakub Vrana (24), Backstrom in addition to forwards Tom Wilson and Brett Connolly (22 each), and Kuznetsov (21).
The Capitals can clinch their fourth consecutive Metropolitan Division title with a win of any kind over the Canadiens. The Capitals have won four straight division titles once before, claiming the Southeast Division each year from 2007-08 to 2010-11. Additionally, the Capitals would become the third reigning Stanley Cup champion to win its division since 2003-04 (Bruins in 2011-12 and Red Wings in 2008-09).
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 31-19-5 with a save percentage of .910, a goals-against average of 2.85, and three shutouts this season, is expected to start against the Canadiens on Thursday. The 29-year old is 12-2-2 with a save percentage of .941, a goals-against average of 1.72, and two shutouts in 17 career games against the Canadiens, including a 22-save relief appearance on November 19.
- Ovechkin enters Thursday one power-play goal shy of passing Luc Robitaille (247) for fourth place on the NHL’s all-time power-play goals list
- With a 47-25-8 record (102 points), the Capitals recorded their fifth straight season with at least 100 points, marking the 10th team ever to do so
- Since February 24, the Capitals are tied for first in wins (13), rank first in points (27) and tied for third in goals for (68); additionally, since returning from their bye week on February 1, the Capitals have posted a 20-8-2 record, tied for the fourth most wins in the NHL (20) and the fourth most points (42)
A Look Back In Time
The Capitals rode a four-goal first period and a four-goal game from Ovechkin en route to a 6-1 blowout win over the Canadiens in their home opener last season. Oshie and forward Nathan Walker, who made his NHL debut, also scored for the Capitals. Holtby made 38 saves in the victory.
By Harrison Brown