The Washington Capitals aim to continue their ascent on Sunday when they host the NHL’s lone winless team, the San Jose Sharks.
The Capitals erupted for a season high in goals in a 6-4 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday in Newark, N.J. They followed that up two nights later by opening a five-game homestand with a 3-2 win in a shootout over the Minnesota Wild.
Defenseman John Carlson scored in the seventh round of the shootout on Friday. He was held off the shortsheet in regulation and overtime, however, to see his five-game point streak (one goal, four assists) come to an end.
Special teams proved pivotal for Washington, which received a short-handed goal from Tom Wilson and a power-play tally from Dylan Strome. The Capitals’ penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5 on the night to boot.
“It’s the difference in the game,” Washington coach Spencer Carbery said. “We score on the power play, and we kill off a bunch of really important penalty kills, and then get the Willie short-handed goal.”
The Capitals scored with the man advantage for the third consecutive contest after Strome converted a back-door feed from superstar captain Alex Ovechkin. Strome’s goal was his team-leading fifth of the season for Washington, while the assist extended Ovechkin’s point streak to five games (two goals, four assists).
Ovechkin collected two goals and an assist and Strome recorded one and two, respectively, as the Capitals cruised to an 8-3 victory over the Sharks on March 4 to split the 2022-23 season series. San Jose skated to a 4-1 win in Washington on Feb. 12.
Tomas Hertl and Alexander Barabanov each scored a goal in both of those games for the Sharks, who are mired in a disastrous start. San Jose (0-7-1) has been shut out in consecutive contests, extending its drought without a goal to 151 minutes, 30 seconds.
“I don’t care where we go or when we play it, we need a win,” Sharks coach David Quinn said after Friday’s 3-0 setback to the Carolina Hurricanes. “Sunday’s the next game and we’re going to get a day off (Saturday) and regroup, physically and mentally, and be ready to win a hockey game.
“It’s going to happen. I thought we took a good step forward today and if we make the next step forward, I like our chances on Sunday.”
San Jose will match the worst start in franchise history with a regulation loss on Sunday. The 1993-94 Sharks strung together eight losses and one tie before posting a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in the 10th game of their season.
“How you get out of it is you stick together,” San Jose forward Mike Hoffman said of the team’s current plight. “The players in that locker room, we’re the ones that have to do it. There’s no one coming to help us. It’s not like the teams we’re going up against are going to take it easy on us.
“It’s the National Hockey League, and everyone’s competing for jobs and positions every night. We have to take it upon ourselves to continue to improve in practice, watch some video and get better as the season rolls along.”