The Boston Bruins went nearly two months between winning streaks before finally earning two victories in a row earlier this week, but their sights are set on a longer stretch of consistency.
They can start by beating a team that's been perhaps as erratic as any.
The Bruins look to win a third straight game for the first time in 2012 in Saturday's matinee with the visiting Washington Capitals, who are eager to build on a much-needed win as they fight to stay in the Eastern Conference's top eight.
Boston (40-23-3) has only had three winning streaks of at least three games this season, all of which came during a 21-2-1 stretch Nov. 1-Dec. 28.
The Bruins, who won 5-4 at Toronto on Tuesday, hadn't even put together back-to-back victories since mid-January prior to a visit from Buffalo on Thursday. Gregory Campbell's goal late in the second period tied the score at 1, and Johnny Boychuk and David Krejci scored in the third to lift Boston to a 3-1 win.
"I wasn't quite sure of the exact date (of the last two-game winning streak) but I know, we all knew, that it's been quite a while," said Campbell, who recorded his first point in 20 games. "As we approach the playoffs you're not going to find yourself going very far if you're winning one, losing one so that's where the consistent factor comes in."
While the Bruins know their second-half struggles won't cost them a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title - they're three points up on Ottawa in the Northeast Division with three games in hand - winning one and losing one likely won't cut it for the Capitals (33-28-6) down the stretch.
Washington finds itself in a tight battle with Florida and Winnipeg for the Southeast title, a race that could end with only the winner among the East's top eight. The Capitals have won consecutive games once since Jan. 15 - a three-game run to close February - but have another chance after rallying to beat Tampa Bay 3-2 in overtime Thursday.
"We keep telling ourselves: we are lucky to be in it, but we are in it," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We got to take advantage of these games against some division rivals and teams that are close to us. It's a nice feeling knowing that we are still right there."
That capped a 2-2-1 homestand - Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime in both wins - but the Caps have to play six of their next seven on the road.
They're 7-15-3 in their last 25 away from the nation's capital, and special teams have been a major reason for that mark. Washington has converted 9.0 percent (7 for 78) of its power-play chances in that stretch, while opponents are cashing in at a 23.3 percent (21 for 90) clip.
The club might be able to end those troubles at TD Garden. The Bruins, who went 15-2-2 at the arena from November through January, are 3-5-0 there since February. They've scored twice in 22 chances with the man advantage (9.1 percent) and have allowed five goals while being short-handed 21 times (23.8 percent).
Recent series history, though, suggests more special-teams trouble for the Caps. Boston has won five of seven while going 7 for 19 on the power play, and Washington has gone scoreless in its last 16 man-advantage opportunities.
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has two goals and nine assists in his last seven games against the Capitals, while Ovechkin has been held to a goal and an assist in his last six versus Boston.
Washington will be without defenseman Mike Green, who will begin serving a three-game suspension for a hit on Tampa Bay rookie Brett Connolly. Green has battled injuries for much of the season and has no points in his last 13 games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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