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Capitals, Blue Jackets look to get back on track
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Two Metropolitan Division teams will be trying to get back on the winning side when they meet Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
The Washington Capitals have lost two in a row after falling 4-3 on Sunday at home to the Vegas Golden Knights. The Columbus Blue Jackets have dropped three straight and four of their last five games.
Tuesday's matchup is the first of an extended back-to-back between the teams. They meet again on Friday night in Washington.
The Capitals (30-17-5) remain atop the Metro standings with 65 points after the recent losses. In those two games, four of the 11 goals by opponents came on power plays.
"Tough stretch for our penalty kill," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "It's not going good right now. I don't know; it feels like we're in between pressure and sitting back. And right now, power plays are having their way with us,
"So we're going to have to regroup there as well. Either stay with the plan and be confident in it, or tweak a thing or two -- minor adjustments, probably -- and get back on our toes and be confident and aggressive."
The Capitals had been one of the NHL's hottest teams, going 20-4-5 in their past 29 games before the mini-skid.
But there's no panic yet among the Capitals, who led the Golden Knights in the third period before giving up the winning goal.
"I thought that we played well enough to at least get a point there and we didn't," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought we had the game when it was 3-2. We had a couple of open nets and we missed those, and it just came back and bit us you know where."
The Blue Jackets are getting bitten quite a bit recently. They've struggled for the past two-plus months, never winning more than two games in a row.
At Thanksgiving, the Blue Jackets (27-21-4) were sitting in first place in the division. Now they're clinging to a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a host of teams breathing down their necks.
"It's about trying to put the full effort in there and cut down on some of the mistakes," Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said. "Right now, it's a fine line between winning and losing in this league. You can play great and find a way to lose the game like we did the other night.
"We can't take any moral victories right now. It's too crucial. The division is too tight and we've got to minimize those mistakes and capitalize on more opportunities."
The Blue Jackets have struggled to score goals most of the season, but coach John Tortorella was encouraged by the effort in Saturday night's 4-3 road loss to the New York Islanders.
Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno -- all of whom had been struggling to produce -- accounted for the three goals.
"We're waiting for something bad to happen to us right now," Tortorella said. "We just need something good to happen."
"We've got to get them into a swagger-type attitude how we play the game," Tortorella said. "We've just got to move on to the next day. We can't fix what just happened. We've got to look ahead. ... I don't want them to feel like they have shackles on themselves. They've got to allow themselves to play."
February could be make-or-break time for the Blue Jackets. A majority of their games will be against division opponents, including the Capitals three times, before the calendar turns to March.
"This is a big month. You can see our conference and see how close the points are," said Anderson, who produced his team-leading 16th goal of the season against the Islanders. "We've got to start winning hockey games here because if we don't we're not going to make the playoffs. We've just to take it one game at a time and start putting points in the bank."
Updated February 5, 2018