The start of 2022 has not been kind to the Washington Capitals, who hope to halt a season-high three-game home losing streak Tuesday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets.
The Caps closed out 2021 on a strong 6-2-1 stretch but are 1-3-2 in 2022. Perhaps most concerning is that they have been outscored 23-13 in January, allowing 15 of those goals during an 0-2-1 home rut.
Sunday, Washington jumped ahead of the Vancouver Canucks on a first-period goal by Alex Ovechkin, who is again at the fore of NHL’s scorers with 26 goals and 54 points. But the Capitals gave up three second-period goals in losing 4-2. It was the fourth time in five games that Washington has been held to two or fewer goals.
“We have great chances to score,” said Ovechkin, who has points in four straight games despite dealing with a nagging upper-body injury. “Obviously, we didn’t (against Vancouver). So, we move on.”
Shifting the focus to the Jets could be what the Capitals need to get back on track. Back on Dec. 17 they pounded in five goals and Vitek Vanecek made 40 saves during a 5-2 win at Winnipeg.
The Capitals have beaten Winnipeg eight times in a row in Washington, outscoring them 33-18, dating to January 2013. Ovechkin has 49 points (26 goals, 23 assists) in 33 home games against the Jets.
Winnipeg, meantime, has enjoyed some recent success on the days that the Jets have been able to take the ice.
The perils of COVID-19 have caused nine of Winnipeg’s 13 scheduled games since Dec. 21 to be postponed. Still, the Jets are 3-1-0 in the games they have played during that span.
The most recent was on Jan. 13, a 3-0 win at Detroit, when Andrew Copp scored twice and Connor Hellebuyck made 33 saves for his 26th career shutout.
“I’m looking to use the players that give us the best chance to win,” interim coach Dave Lowry, off to a 4-2-0 start to his Jets’ tenure, told the Winnipeg Sun.
“Some guys are going to play up in the lineup, and some guys are going to play themselves down.”
Kyle Connor remains Winnipeg’s most consistent offensive presence with a team-high 20 goals and 37 points. He’s scored twice while posting three assists over the last four contests following a three-game point drought — which included that loss against Washington. Connor has a goal for his only point in four career games at Washington.
Hellebuyck, meanwhile, owns a 2.80 goals-against average while winning four of his last five starts.
Vanecek, who made 23 saves while shutting out the New York Islanders on Saturday in Elmont, N.Y., looks to retain that form at home, where he has allowed three goals in each of his last three home contests, in which Washington is 0-2-1. Teammate Ilya Samsonov is 0-2-1 in 2022.
Capitals star T.J. Oshie could miss a second consecutive contest with an upper-body injury.
–Field Level Media