November 19, 2014

The Washington Capitals fell victim to a team fighting for a playoff spot in their last game - perhaps a predictable outcome, as they've clinched the Presidents' Trophy and are just playing out their regular-season schedule.

The Capitals now face an opponent with an even higher level of urgency.

Washington looks to rediscover its scoring touch when it visits the Colorado Avalanche, whose fading postseason hopes could receive another major blow Friday night.

Washington (54-16-6) was outshot for the first time in four games Wednesday and lost 2-1 in a shootout at Philadelphia, which is two points up on Detroit for the second wild-card spot and also battling the New York Islanders for the first.

Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play for his 44th goal to give the Capitals the lead early in the third period, but the Flyers tied it late and then scored twice on Braden Holtby in the tiebreaker.

"The biggest difference in the two teams is probably the desperation level of Philadelphia," said coach Barry Trotz, whose club could end up facing the Flyers in the first round. "Ours probably wasn't as high and it probably shouldn't be, human nature and all that. At the same time we battled hard."

The Capitals' lack of any incentive in the final six games probably also explains their lack of offense over the past four contests. They've totaled one or no goals in three of them, though they've gone 2-1-1 in that span and 5-1-1 in the past seven.

Washington isn't exactly denying that it isn't playing its best in these meaningless games.

"I don't think we answered their intensity," center Nicklas Backstrom said Wednesday. "I think we have one more level."

Backstrom won't be available to try and achieve it Friday, as he'll sit out after getting ''banged up a little bit'' at Philadelphia, Trotz said. Backstrom's status for Saturday's matchup at Arizona is uncertain.

The Avalanche (39-34-4) certainly hope they can find another level themselves. Colorado is just outside the playoff picture, but its chances of catching surging Minnesota for the second wild card are becoming more remote by the day.

The Avalanche were outshot 24-11 through the first two periods and lost 3-1 at St. Louis on Tuesday, their third defeat in four games.

The slump has left Colorado with almost no margin for error, and the absence of leading scorers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon from the lineup due to knee injuries certainly didn't help. Duchene, who missed six games, will play Friday, but there's no timetable for MacKinnon's return.

"At this point, this was a two-point game and we didn't get it done," defenseman Chris Bigras said. "That's disappointing."

Colorado has totaled three goals in its last three defeats. The Avalanche allowed two power-play goals against the Blues and have given up three in 10 chances over the last three games, and they've gone 1 for 14 with the man advantage in the past seven.

"We were not perfect," coach Patrick Roy said. "We took two unnecessary penalties. But this is a special group that never gives up and they kept pushing."

The Avalanche have dropped their last two home games. The Capitals are 2-0-1 in their previous three on the road, though they've managed one goal in the past two.

Washington has taken the last three meetings in the series and routed Colorado 7-3 in the first one this season Nov. 21.

Holtby has allowed two or fewer goals in six of his past seven starts, while the Avalanche's Semyon Varlamov has given up three in each of his past five. Varlamov, though, is 2-1-0 with a 1.35 goals-against average against Washington in his career.

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