It took some time, but the Washington Capitals appear to have finally hit their stride.
Coming off their highest-scoring game of the year, the visiting Capitals look for a season-high fourth straight victory Saturday against a New York Islanders team hoping to bounce back from a heartbreaking defeat to its archrival.
Washington (10-11-1) scored four goals on its first eight shots in less than 8 1/2 minutes of a 7-1 win over Florida on Thursday.
"Of course, it's a little bit luck,' Washington's Alex Ovechkin said of the early outburst. "But we need that kind of luck right now.'
The Capitals have won eight of 11 since a 2-8-1 start left them wondering if they had enough time to turn this shortened season around.
"We started so bad that it was a big hole to climb out of, and it didn't look good,' defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We're just happy that we're winning games right now, and we don't want to be a .500 team.'
Though Washington still isn't in playoff position despite its surge, it appears to be on track.
The Capitals have averaged 3.7 goals and allowed 2.0 in the last 11 games after scoring 2.3 per contest and yielding 3.7 in the first 11. They've converted 32.4 percent of their power-play chances and killed 30 of 35 penalties during the winning streak.
In its first 11 contests, Washington went 9 for 42 (21.4 percent) with the man advantage while opponents were 15 of 51 (29.4) on the power play.
"It's all the same stuff we talk about every day," coach Adam Oates told the Capitals' official website. "The conditioning, the schedule, the system - all the stuff we talk about. The guys are playing better and good things are happening sometimes but all in all, in the last three weeks we've only had one bad game."
Braden Holtby made 29 saves Thursday and has a 2.09 goals-against and three shutouts while starting the last 11 games. Mike Ribeiro has recorded three goals with three assists in three games, while Ovechkin has four goals and six assists in the last six after recording 10 points over the first 16 contests.
Ovechkin, who had a goal and two assists Thursday, has 10 goals and five assists in 13 road games against New York (10-11-3). He's recorded six goals and five assists in his past 11 overall matchups with the Islanders, who lost in overtime and a shootout in their last two versus the Capitals.
Though New York is in the midst of a 2-0-2 stretch, it's coming off a disheartening 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers on Thursday. Evgeni Nabokov was outstanding with 35 saves, but was beaten by Rick Nash's tying goal with 5:23 left in the third period and Marian Gaborik's power-play tally 42 seconds into the extra period.
Some Islanders berated the officials on the way off the ice for what they felt was a questionable hooking call on Michael Grabner in overtime.
"You can't dwell on the referees, you can't dwell on getting one point versus two," coach Jack Capuano said. "We've got to get ready for Washington."
Grabner has a goal in three straight games overall but no points in his last five against the Capitals.
Nabokov allowed seven goals in the last two losses to the Capitals after going 10-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average in his first 11 against them.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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