January 17, 2015

Few teams have been able to keep pace with the Washington Capitals, particularly when Alex Ovechkin is as locked in as right now.

That hasn't been an issue for the Dallas Stars.

As the Capitals aim for a sixth consecutive win, the Stars look to maintain their recent dominance in the series when the NHL's highest-scoring teams face off Saturday night.

This marquee matchup has the makings of a possible Stanley Cup Final preview with Washington (40-9-4) a runaway leader atop the Eastern Conference and Dallas (35-15-5) one point off Chicago's lead in the West. There's clearly the potential for plenty of scoring as well, as the Stars top the NHL with 178 goals and the Capitals average a league-high 3.3 per game.

Washington has generated 33 goals over a 7-1-1 stretch and nine over the first two tests of a three-game trip. Ovechkin has scored in three straight and passed Chicago's Patrick Kane for the league lead with a hat trick in Thursday's 4-3 win over Minnesota.

Ovechkin recorded all three goals in the second period and has 34 this season, 13 of which have come in his last 13 games.

"It's incredible. The puck just comes to him, but he has that ability when it comes to put it in the net," said teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who assisted on all three scores. "It's hard to do."

Ovechkin has a goal in three of Washington's past five meetings with Dallas, though that production hasn't translated into team success as the Stars have won eight consecutive matchups and seven straight in regulation. They won 3-2 on Nov. 19 in Washington, where Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves and Jason Spezza scored the game-winner shortly after Ovechkin tied it in the third period.

Lehtonen was just as sharp as Dallas won both ends of its recent two-game trip. After compiling 37 saves in Tuesday's 4-3 overtime victory at Minnesota, he notched a season-high 44 as the Stars closed the gap on the Blackhawks with Thursday's 4-2 win.

"He made some great saves for us," coach Lindy Ruff said. "Minnesota was the same way; we needed some big saves at important times. He made some game changers."

Lehtonen was supported by Patrick Eaves' second career hat trick that helped Dallas, which lost 5-1 at home to Chicago last Saturday for its only defeat in six games, build a 4-0 lead through one period.

''We were ourselves (Thursday),'' said Tyler Seguin, who assisted on two of Eaves' goals. ''Obviously I think they handed it to us last game.''

Eaves has four goals and three assists over a four-game point streak, aiding an offense that's been without Spezza for three straight due to an upper-body injury. Seguin has seven points over his last five and has scored in four straight against Washington.

Lehtonen owns a 1.71 goals-against average in winning seven straight starts against Washington, while the Capitals' Braden Holtby earned a fifth consecutive win with 33 saves against Minnesota.

Holtby, who did not play in the November meeting, is 17-3-2 with a 2.21 GAA in 22 road starts.

The Capitals are expected to have Evgeny Kuznetsov, the club's leader with 54 points, available after passing a concussion test on Friday. The All-Star forward exited Thursday's game after being high-sticked in the face on a third-period faceoff.

You May Like