Coach Bruce Boudreau showed in the Washington Capitals’ last game that he’s willing to try something different - even leaving his two-time league MVP on the bench late in a close contest.
After a spectacular end to a brief skid, the Capitals will try to keep heading in the right direction by continuing their recent dominance over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
With his team trailing Anaheim by one Tuesday, Boudreau called a timeout to talk over his plans for the final minute of regulation. Those plans didn’t include Alex Ovechkin(notes), as Washington send out its third line of Brooks Laich(notes), Jason Chimera(notes) and Joel Ward(notes) - which had seven points on the night - supplemented by Nicklas Backstrom(notes).
Ovechkin appeared to direct an expletive toward his coach following the decision, but Boudreau’s hunch to sit his ineffective captain paid off. Backstrom scored the tying goal with 42 seconds left in regulation, and Ovechkin assisted on another Backstrom goal in overtime of a 5-4 victory that ended a two-game slide.
“It’s one team,” said Ovechkin, who has five goals and five assists for Washington (8-2-0). “It doesn’t matter how good you are or who you are. If we want to win, we have to be on the same page.
“It was frustrating. That kind of situation (ticks) me off, but it is what it is. It’s good for the team. I have to respond from it.”
Ovechkin will get that chance against a Hurricanes club that’s gone 3-0-1 in its last four home games. Carolina (5-4-3) defeated Tampa Bay 4-2 at the RBC Center on Tuesday, getting by two goals apiece from Chad LaRose(notes) and Jeff Skinner(notes).
“We’re trying to take it one game at a time on this (three-game) homestand,” LaRose said. “We’re looking forward to Friday’s game and we’ll be ready to go.”
The Hurricanes haven’t been ready for the Capitals lately, losing six of seven matchups. Washington has won three in a row in Raleigh with Backstrom recording four goals and Ovechkin collecting a goal and five assists.
Backstrom had a pair of assists in the Caps’ season-opening 4-3 overtime home victory over Carolina on Oct. 8, the second assist coming on Mike Green’s(notes) goal in the extra period. Boudreau, though, said Thursday that Green will likely miss a fourth straight game because of an injured right ankle.
Boudreau said he will likely start each of his goaltenders once during the two-game trip over back-to-back nights. Michal Neuvirth(notes) might get the nod Friday as he earned one of his four career shutouts in Raleigh last season, while Tomas Vokoun(notes) has allowed four goals in each of his last two matchups with the Hurricanes.
Ward has a 2.16 GAA in his last five games versus the Capitals but is 1-3-1 over that span.