NEW YORK (AP) — The Washington Capitals cruised to a third consecutive Southeast Division title last season. It’s only early November, but they’re already building another significant lead.
The Capitals look to extend their winning streak to five and continue their dominance of the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Washington (10-4-0) led the Southeast for the entire 2009-10 season, finishing a whopping 38 points ahead of second-place Atlanta while claiming its first Presidents’ Trophy.
The Capitals are starting to pull away again, as a four-game winning streak has given them a four-point division lead over Tampa Bay. Mike Green’s goal 29 seconds into overtime Sunday gave them a 3-2 victory over Philadelphia.
Now, Washington begins a stretch of five games in eight days, including home matchups with their closest pursuers in the Southeast – the Lightning on Thursday and the Thrashers on Sunday.
“I think it’s important at this time early in the year, you put distance between yourself and the people behind you,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Because there’s going to be times that you’re going to go through rough stretches, whether it’s through injuries or whether it’s through the ups and downs of a season.”
The Capitals are trying for their first five-game winning streak since April 1-9, with Green playing a key part. The Norris Trophy finalist from last season started 2010-11 with one point in six games. He has eight points in the last five contests, though, and is currently riding a four-game goal streak.
Green has 11 points in his last 11 regular-season meetings with the Rangers (7-6-1).
Alex Ovechkin has been dominant at MSG, collecting seven goals and five assists in his last seven visits, including the 2009 playoffs when the Capitals eliminated the Rangers in seven games.
Ovechkin has 16 goals and 13 assists in 27 career matchups with New York.
Ovechkin and Green have helped Washington go 8-1-1 in the last 10 regular-season meetings between these teams.
New York fell to 2-4-1 at MSG after opening its four-game homestand Sunday with a 2-0 loss to St. Louis, its first shutout loss of the season.
“We did not play a solid enough 60 minutes tonight,” forward Brandon Dubinsky told the Rangers’ official website. “We didn’t get enough scoring chances in order to win.”
Dubinsky managed only one shot against the Blues after scoring five goals in his previous three games. His 10 goals are a team high and halfway to his career-best set last season.
Dubinsky has found the back of the net twice in 18 career games against Washington.
Henrik Lundqvist will likely be back in net for the Rangers after backup Martin Biron made 20 saves Sunday. Lundqvist is 3-1-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average over his last four games, but has a 2-3-2 record and 3.94 GAA in his last seven meetings with the Capitals.
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