Not only have the Pittsburgh Penguins failed to beat the Washington Capitals in two previous meetings this season, but they haven’t even scored a goal against them.
They may have trouble reversing that trend on Tuesday night given the recent struggles of their vaunted power play.
The Pens look to bring some consistency to their offense as they host the Capitals and their prolific goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin.
Pittsburgh had posted eight straight wins over Washington coming into this season, but was blanked by the Caps 3-0 at home on Dec. 27 and then again by a 4-0 margin on Jan. 28 in Washington.
The Pens have been shut out three times in nine games beginning with that recent loss to the Capitals, but also scored eight non-shootout goals in consecutive wins prior to a 2-1 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
Another concern for the Penguins is the fact that their power play is 0-for-15 in seven games this month after failing to score on two chances versus the Blackhawks.
Pittsburgh trailed 1-0 after two periods versus Chicago, but drew even on Nick Spaling’s tally 3:54 into the third period. The Pens then got shootout goals from David Perron and Sidney Crosby, but Marc-Andre Fleury failed to stop any of the three Chicago skaters he faced and defenseman Kris Letang was denied on this third-round chance.
Fleury finished with 31 saves in a losing cause.
“It’s almost unfortunate that it wasn’t a playoff game where I guess you could see a real winner and win,” Perron said. “They got the two points today, but I thought we were satisfied with how we played the whole 65 minutes.”
Pittsburgh had won four of five and sits two points behind the first-place New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. The Pens also have dipped into a tie with the New York Rangers for second in the standings with one more game played.
The Capitals trail the Pens and Rangers by three points and split back-to-back games over the weekend to finish off the California part of their three-game road trip.
Washington was defeated 3-1 by the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, but rebounded to top the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 on Sunday. Ovechkin scored twice to up his league-leading goal total to 36 and also assisted on two goals.
Andre Burakovsky scored twice and Marcus Johansson also lit the lamp for the Capitals, who have won five of their last seven games. Justin Peters stopped 30 shots in the win, his first since Nov. 8.
“It was really important,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said of the game’s effort. “We talked about our compete level. (Saturday) night wasn’t at the level that you need to win hockey games, especially out here in California against good teams. We changed some people around, challenged some people and they responded.
Washington concludes a four-game road trip tonight and Braden Holtby will likely draw the start. He had lost each of his first four decisions versus the Penguins, but recorded 31 saves in the victory at Pittsburgh and then another 27 shots in the 4-0 win in Washington in late January.
Ovechkin scored twice in that home victory.
Fleury was in net for both losses this season to the Capitals and is 16-9-2 versus them lifetime with a 2.50 goals against average, .916 save percentage and three shutouts.