Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- After dominating the slumping Washington Capitals in the opener of this home-and-home set, the Carolina Hurricanes have a chance to make another big statement Thursday night.
The first-place Hurricanes try to hand the visiting Capitals a season-worst fourth consecutive regulation loss as these Southeast Division rivals square off again.
Carolina (15-9-1) has outscored opponents 29-15 during a 6-1-0 stretch and kept things going Tuesday with a 4-0 victory in the nation's capital. Riley Nash scored twice, Patrick Dwyer added a goal and an assist and Justin Peters turned away 26 shots to post his second career shutout versus Washington (10-14-1).
"You can't take anything for granted," coach Kirk Muller told the Hurricanes' official website. "That was one of our strongest 60-minute performances this year, and in a big game, that's great. We've done a really good job staying focused."
Carolina, which outshot the Capitals 36-26, has outscored them 16-6 while taking four of five in the series. The Hurricanes can move 12 points ahead of Washington with a regulation win in this game.
"You want to try and create space there," said Peters, who is 3-1-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average lifetime versus the Capitals. "We were focused on (Tuesday), coming in here and trying to do that. We've got to regroup now and try and have the same mindset coming into Thursday."
Washington had won eight of 11 before getting outscored 13-3 during an 0-3-0 skid. The Capitals last suffered four straight regulation defeats Nov. 25-Dec. 1, 2011.
"We were on a pretty good roll there and then we lose three in a row and we feel like we are right back to where we were," said forward Eric Fehr, who's gone pointless during the losing streak.
"We've just go to work that much harder to get back in the division, and obviously it starts (Thursday) against the same team. We've just got to find a way to score a goal early on them."
The Capitals, who are 7-1-0 when Fehr has at least one point, find themselves in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind the eighth and final postseason berth.
"Just embarrassing, I think," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "Our effort is not good enough. Especially if you're going to hunt that playoff spot, you can't play like this."
Alex Ovechkin has also gone pointless during the skid and was held without a shot Tuesday for just the second time this season. It also happened in a 3-0 win over Carolina on Feb. 26.
"I think if you watched them play (Tuesday), it seems like they're missing maybe some confidence," defenseman Joe Corvo said after scoring his fourth goal. "They're struggling a little bit."
Washington is 2-9-1 when Ovechkin fails to record a point. He has notched just one assist over the last five matchups versus Carolina and hasn't scored in his last nine.
Backup Michal Neuvirth, who is 1-4-1 with a 3.05 GAA in seven starts this season, is expected to start this game. He's 3-0-1 with a 1.95 GAA over his last four starts against the Hurricanes, last facing them March 6, 2012.
Neuvirth could be in for a long night with defensemen John Erskine (upper body) still sidelined and Mike Green (groin) unlikely to return. Tom Poti (upper body) could also be held out again.
Updated March 14, 2013