The Vancouver Canucks will go for their fourth straight win when they host the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
The Canucks have won eight of their past 10 games to put themselves in the middle of the Western Conference wild-card chase. Vancouver is playing the second of a fortuitously timed seven-game homestand.
“We have one focus right now and that’s winning these games,” forward J.T. Miller said. “We should try to win every game at home, especially. It’s not out of the question. We’ll take it one game at a time, but we need these wins. We’re a desperate team. Every game from now on out should be easy to get up for.”
No one’s doing more for Vancouver’s playoff chase of late than Miller. The 28-year-old has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) during a 10-game point streak, including a goal and three assists in a 5-3 win at the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
“He’s taken over as the catalyst and the leader,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s wonderful to see because you need that at this time of the season.”
Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson each had a goal and an assist against Montreal, and Thatcher Demko made 22 saves.
Horvat has six points (one goal, five assists) during a four-game point streak and Petterson has 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in his past 12 games. Along the blue line, defenceman Brad Hunt has scored four points (one goal, three assists) in a four-game point streak.
Demko has faced the Capitals once, in Vancouver’s 4-2 win in Washington on Jan. 16.
The Capitals will be looking to extend their point streak to five games. Just when it looked like they were regulation losers on Wednesday, T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the game with 1.8 seconds left to force overtime in Edmonton.
Washington nearly won it in the extra session when Anthony Mantha’s shot hit the post, but a short time later Oilers star Connor McDavid scored the game-winner, 4-3.
“I felt the guys kept competing and competing and didn’t stop until the end,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s unfortunate and disappointing when it doesn’t go your way because you work so hard for it to try and get it done and it doesn’t happen. It was a heck of an effort by the guys.”
Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist to reach 1,000 NHL points in 1,037 games, and Ilya Samsonov made 36 saves for the Capitals, who had won three straight.
“Obviously it means a lot, and it’s a big milestone,” Backstrom said. “I’m very happy that I reached it today. Obviously, we would have liked two points, but ‘Osh’ tied it up there at the end, which gave us at least one point. We’ll take that and move on.”
The Capitals allowed a second-period power play goal, ending a streak of 19 consecutive penalty kills.
Alex Ovechkin saw his three-game goal streak end and remains tied with Jaromir Jagr (766 goals) for third place on the NHL’s all-time list behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801).
Washington’s likely starter in goal, Vitek Vanecek, has never faced the Canucks. He has won his past three starts.