NEW YORK (AP) — With one win in their last five games, the Washington Capitals may be happy to see the New York Islanders next on the schedule.
The Capitals look to beat the Islanders for the ninth time in 10 meetings overall and win their fifth straight at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night.
While Washington (25-14-8) remains one of the league’s elite teams, it isn’t likely to come close to last season’s franchise-record 121 points, and a surprisingly mediocre offense is the biggest culprit. The Capitals have 133 goals in 47 games this season after leading the league with 318 in 2009-10.
After scoring three third-period goals to rally for a 3-1 victory over Ottawa on Sunday, the Capitals had to overcome another slow start in Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Flyers took a 2-0 lead into the third period before Mike Knuble and Alex Ovechkin scored 40 seconds apart to help Washington salvage a point in an eventual 3-2 overtime loss.
“You’d like to think it’s going to start a little earlier, but what are you going to do?” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s frustrating for the players, it’s frustrating for the coaches, it’s frustrating for everybody.”
Boudreau’s team was held to three goals or fewer for the 11th straight game, Washington’s longest such streak in more than five years.
“We played the third period the way we have to play all 60 minutes. Everyone in here understands that,” Ovechkin said. “If we work hard, and we use our skills, no one can stop us. In the first two periods, we didn’t do that.”
A 1-2-2 funk has the Capitals one point behind Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division, but a second meeting this season against the Islanders (14-23-7) could be enough to put them back on top.
Washington improved to 8-0-1 in the last nine matchups with a 2-1 home victory Oct. 13. Ovechkin had a goal and an assist in that game, giving him 14 and seven in 19 meetings.
A recent 8-2-1 surge moved the Islanders out of last place in the league, but they have since lost four of five. They gave up the game’s first three goals in a 5-2 loss to visiting New Jersey on Monday.
“We had no early jump,” forward P.A. Parenteau said. “That has to be corrected.”
Still without several injured defensemen, New York will get back one of its top forwards Thursday as Kyle Okposo makes his season debut. Okposo – second on the team last season with 52 points – has been sidelined since injuring his shoulder in training camp.
“I’ve waited a long time for this and I’m ready to go,” Okposo told the team’s official website. “I’m just excited to get going. I’m just going to have to go out there and play my game.”
Center Frans Nielsen could also return to the lineup after missing seven games with a groin injury. The Islanders are 1-4-2 without their best defensive forward.
“It’s been feeling good,” Nielsen said about his groin. “Hopefully I’ll be fine … at practice and then we’ll see.”
With rookie Kevin Poulin starting Monday, Rick DiPietro could be back in net for the Islanders looking to continue his best stretch of the season. DiPietro is 4-0-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average in his last four starts overall, and 9-1-1 with a 1.63 GAA in his last 12 against the Capitals.
© 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.