Washington had won three straight games before dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to Metro Division rival Columbus on Saturday. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a game-tying goal with just over a minute left to force extra time, but Nicklas Backstrom‘s slashing penalty gave the Blue Jackets a power play on which they scored for the win.
The Capitals have become locked in a battle for the top spot in the Metro Division. They have a division-best 59 points, two points more than Columbus and three more than Pittsburgh.
Two areas Washington has struggled in lately are power plays and faceoffs. The Capitals did better Saturday in the latter, taking 40 of 76 draws, including one late that led to the Kuznetsov goal.
At least that got the game into overtime, which gave the Caps a point, something that coach Todd Reirden liked.
“I’m really happy for us to get a point out of that at the end there,” he told the media afterward. “It’s a really important point.”
The biggest question would involve All-Star goalie Braden Holtby, who came out midway through Saturday’s game after being accidentally poked in the face/eye region by Cam Atkinson. Holtby skated with the team at Sunday’s practice, but the Caps will wait to see how he feels Monday before planning what to do next.
Pheonix Copley came in and played great, giving up just the overtime goal, and could start if Holtby is not ready.
St. Louis has gotten some surprising help out of rookie goalie Jordan Binnington. The 25-year-old has played over 200 games in the minors but improved to 3-0 in the NHL with a 21-save performance in a 3-1 victory at Dallas on Saturday.
After that win, his goals-against average fell to 0.67 during the three-game stretch and his save percentage rose to .974.
“Yeah, it’s been good,” Binnington told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s a good week. And just like that (we’re) going into another week in two days.”
It will be interesting to see if St. Louis starts Binnington against Washington, considering the Caps have yet to see him play and struggled against the Blue Jackets, missing on a number of good scoring chances in the third period.
The Blues are fighting for a playoff spot under interim coach Craig Berube, and they’ve been playing better since Binnington began playing in place of Jake Allen, whose only start last week was a 3-1 loss to the Stars on Tuesday. They have won two in a row and will be trying for a third consecutive victory for the first time this season.
St. Louis beat the Capitals 5-2 in a home game Jan. 3, so the Blues recently saw Washington and did a good job of shutting down its high-powered offense.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice in the Dallas win Saturday.
The Blues have several forwards on injured reserve — Alexander Steen (shoulder), Tyler Bozak (concussion) and Robert Thomas (shoulder) — and so they recalled Jordan Kyrou and Jordan Nolan from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to provide depth.