Capitals-Sharks Preview

After suffering a humbling loss in their last contest, the Washington Capitals need to regain their offensive presence entering a season-high four-game trip.

They'll look to shore things up Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks, who will try to salvage a win on their homestand after two lackluster defensive efforts.

Following a stretch in which they earned points in five of six games to gain a comfortable position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Capitals (28-16-10) fell to Philadelphia 3-1 on Sunday to snap a three-game win streak.

They managed only 14 shots on goal - their lowest total since March 18, 2011 - and need to turn it around on a trip that also features Los Angeles, Anaheim and Pittsburgh.

"I didn't like our execution," coach Barry Trotz said. "You can't get shots (on goal) if you miss the net, you can't get shots if you don't get the puck to the next level, and we turned a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone."

Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play to prevent Washington's second shutout in six games, but the special teams still posted a rare poor performance. The Capitals converted on only one of six man-advantage opportunities and their penalty kill surrendered a goal for the second straight game.

"It's not good enough," Ovechkin told the NHL's official website. "Power play was terrible today. All five guys didn't get any opportunities, myself, you know, missed the shots and the stick. It's tough."

Washington ranks among the league's best with a 23.1 percent conversion rate on the power play, but it has gone 1 for 8 in its last three games.

The Capitals scored twice with the advantage in a 6-5 shootout loss to San Jose (28-20-7) on Oct. 14. The Sharks chased Braden Holtby with three first-period goals and Joe Pavelski scored on Justin Peters in the shootout to clinch their 18th win in 20 meetings.

While that performance stands as one of the worst of Holtby's career, the fifth-year netminder has played exceptionally well of late. In his last five starts, Holtby owns a 0.80 goals-against average and has two shutouts.

San Jose will look for another strong performance against the Capitals after Monday's 4-1 loss to Calgary.

"We made enough mistakes where they could capitalize," coach Todd McLellan told the league's official website. "They in turn made some mistakes, but we didn't capitalize. We in turn have to look at our net intensity and what we're doing with the puck."

A more pressing issue for the Sharks may be their defensive play, which has allowed nine goals over the last two games. Antti Niemi has lost three of four and has posted an .873 save percentage in his last two.

San Jose's defense ranks near the bottom of the NHL with 3.29 goals allowed per game since Jan. 3, while Washington has allowed only 2.24 per game in that same span.

The Sharks and Capitals have gone to a shootout in each of their last three meetings, with San Jose taking two of them - both in the nation's capital. Niemi started all three of those contests and is 5-0-1 against Washington since joining San Jose in 2010.

Washington's 3-2 shootout win at The Shark Tank on March 22 ended a 12-game winless skid in San Jose. The Capitals haven't won two straight there since 1993.


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