Washington Capitals (43-25-10) at Ottawa Senators (39-26-12), 7 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) – The Ottawa Senators hope to secure what would be a big third victory in a row on Saturday night when they play host to the Washington Capitals.
The Sens are just on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff race with 90 points. That has them three back of the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins for both a wild card spot and third place in the Atlantic Division.
The Red Wings hold the current tiebreaker over the Bruins, putting the latter club into the second wild card spot in the East. Ottawa and Detroit both have five games left in the regular season, while Boston has four. All three teams are in action on Saturday, with the Bruins hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Red Wings visiting the Minnesota Wild.
The Senators picked up their ninth victory in 12 games on Thursday with a 2-1 overtime decision against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mark Stone notched a goal and also assisted on Patrick Wiercioch’s overtime winner with 16.9 seconds on the clock.
Wiercioch’s slap shot from the top of the right circle got past Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, while Sens netminder Andrew Hammond improved to 16-1-1 as a starter in the NHL with 28 saves.
“They’re the top team offensively in the league. You know that they are going to get their chances. For the most part I thought we did a good job of limiting them,” Hammond said.
Now Hammond and the Ottawa defense will try to limit Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who tops the NHL with 52 goals and became the Capitals’ all-time leading goal-scorer in Thursday’s 5-4 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Ovechkin scored twice to give him 474 career goals, breaking his tie with Peter Bondra for the franchise mark.
“Obviously it’s a huge accomplishment, but records are to be beaten,” Ovechkin said. “The most important thing is that is was a huge two points for us.”
Joel Ward also scored twice as the Capitals went 3-for-4 on the power play, with tallies by Ovechkin and Ward on the man advantage 73 seconds apart in the third period briefly erasing a 3-2 deficit.
Braden Holtby came up with 23 stops and halted all four skaters he faced in the shootout as Washington won its third straight and seventh in the last nine meetings.
“We stuck with it,” Holtby said. “You realize when the play’s desperate and we did that tonight.”
The Capitals, who visit the Red Wings on Sunday, came into the season having lost seven straight to the Senators, but have won the first of three meetings this season by identical 2-1 scores.
Their victory on Feb. 5 snapped a four-game slide in Ottawa and was just the Caps’ third in the past 12 on the road in this series.