WASHINGTON (AP) — As dominant as the Washington Capitals have been at home this season, they haven’t been able to figure out the Dallas Stars for years.
That puzzling trend continued Monday night as the Stars beat the NHL-leading Capitals 4-2 to extend their point streak in the series to 12 games.
Dallas snapped Washington’s home winning streak at 15 and point streak at 17, winning in D.C. for the sixth consecutive visit to move within seven points of a playoff spot.
The Stars are 10-0-2 against the Capitals dating to their previous regulation loss to them on Nov. 30, 2006. This time they did it by chasing reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Braden Holtby with three goals on 11 shots and getting 42 saves from Kari Lehtonen on a night they were outshot 44-22.
Nicklas Backstrom scored his 21st goal of the season and T.J. Oshie his 25th for Washington, which lost in regulation at home for the first time since Dec. 17. This was their first loss of any kind at home since Dec. 29.
Holtby fell to 0-4-0 with a 4.79 goals-against average and .837 save percentage in five games against the Stars, the only team in the league he hasn’t beaten. He entered the game first in the league with a 1.89 GAA and second with a .931 save percentage this season.
Holtby said he didn’t think a few losses to the same team represented a trend. He couldn’t be blamed for the first two goals he gave up, namely the second that came after a turnover from Backstrom.
Devin Shore, Radek Faksa and Jason Spezza — whose shot beat Holtby clean — got those goals to put Dallas up 3-0 early in the second period. That spelled the end of Holtby’s night as Philipp Grubauer relieved him and stopped all 10 shots he faced.
Patrick Sharp, who has been playing through an injury that will require surgery at some point, added an empty netter for Dallas.
Season-long struggles have plagued the Stars, who at seven points back of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference still face an uphill climb with 16 games remaining. Coach Lindy Ruff said Monday morning, “We’re in a position we need to win every game almost,” a herculean task for a team that has won three consecutive games only once this season.
If the Stars played the Capitals more than twice a season, they probably wouldn’t be in such desperate straits coming down the stretch. Yet players were unaware of their streak against the Capitals, with captain Jamie Benn saying he thinks they “get up to the challenge.”
NOTES: Lehtonen extended his personal point streak against the Capitals to 10 games and improved to 18-6-3 against them. … Benn had an assist to extend his point streak to a season-best seven games. … Tyler Seguin has a point in each game he has played for the Stars against the Capitals. … Stars F Adam Cracknell returned after missing five games with a lower-body injury. … Capitals F Daniel Winnik played his 700th NHL game. … The Capitals’ home winning streak was the longest since the Detroit Red Wings’ record 23 in a row at Joe Louis Arena in 2001-02.
Stars: Host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday looking for their first three-game winning streak since late December.
Capitals: Open a three-game California road trip Thursday at the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks before heading to Los Angeles and Anaheim.
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .
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