The slumping Washington Capitals fell out of first place in the Metropolitan Division on Tuesday night, thanks to a Pittsburgh win, and they will try to start turning things around against the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
Washington has lost four of its last five games and six of itslast nine. Alex Ovechkin remains at 698 career goals as he has not scored a goal -- or even a point-- in the last five contests.
The defense also has gone through a tough time in recent weeks. It has allowed 20 goals in the past five games and that probably led to Tuesday's trade for San Jose defenseman Brenden Dillon.
Washington acquired Dillon, a veteran and a physical defenseman, from the Sharks for a second-round pick in the 2020 draft plus a conditional third-round pick in the 2021 draft. Plus, San Jose picked up 50 percent of his salary.
Dillon is in the last season of a five-year contract but the Caps need help in the back. He could be part of one of the top two pairings and give Washington a lift.
"I'm really excited; I can't wait to get there," Dillon told NHL.com Tuesday. "The team, the group, what an opportunity. I've tried to bring the lunch pail to work every day and do my job, but definitely I'm going to be happier to get going."
The breakdowns on defense have made things rough on goalies Braden Holtby and Ilya Samsonov as opposing players are finding a lot of high-percentage shots on a much more regular basis.
The other problem is Washington's high-powered offense has not been coming through as much. In these past five games, the Caps have scored just 11 goals, and Evgeny Kuznetsov has been out since Feb. 10 with an upper-body injury. There was no update on his status as of Wednesday morning.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, are coming to Washington dealing with their own problems. They've lost five in a row after Detroit rallied for a 4-3 victory Tuesday.
Montreal took leads of 2-0 and 3-1 -- the latter was how much the Canadiens were up heading into the third period -- before the Red Wings bounced back for three goals in that final period.
Coach Claude Julien was upset at how his team wasted the two-goal third-period lead, something he talked about in his post-game press conference.
"We can't see to play a good game for a full 60 minutes," Julien said on NHL.com. "It's frustrating and it's unacceptable. If you want to be the winning team, you have to be able to play the same way for 60 minutes. We haven't been doing that lately. If we keep on playing the same way we played during the first two periods, we'll win the game. But we weren't able to do that."
Jeff Petry and Nick Suzuki scored power-play goals for the Canadiens in the game, and according to NHL.com, it was the fifth time this season they've gotten more than one extra-man goal in a contest.
Montreal also made a trade Tuesday, sending defenseman Marco Scandella to St. Louis in exchange for a second-round 2020 pick plus a conditional fourth-round selection next year.
The Canadiens' other roster move came when they recalled defenseman Christian Folin from the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League.
He had been sent down to the AHL on Feb. 17 but has played seven games with the team already this season. Folin was scheduled to join the team in Washington on Wednesday, according to the Canadiens' web site.
--Field Level Media