Caps visit Hurricanes looking to avoid third straight loss

( - The Washington Capitals hope to avoid a third straight setback when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes for Friday's battle at PNC Arena.

The Capitals, who hold the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, have followed up a four-game winning streak from Feb. 15-21 with consecutive regulation losses.

After dropping a 3-2 decision Sunday in Philadelphia, the Capitals were handed a 4-3 setback Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. The loss extended the Penguins' lead over Washington for third place in the Metropolitan Division to three points.

The Caps were aiming for a season series sweep of the Pens on Wednesday, but fell behind 2-0 in the first period and were never able to get closer than one goal of the lead after that.

John Carlson, Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin tallied for the Capitals, who had outscored their rivals by a 10-1 count in winning the first three games between the clubs.

Jason Chimera picked up a pair of assists, while Braden Holtby came up with 22 saves in the losing effort.

"I thought we took all bad penalties, unnecessary penalties. I mean you can get momentum off the penalty kill, but we'd get momentum off a penalty kill and then we'd take another penalty," said Caps head coach Barry Trotz. "Those are just unacceptable for me."

Holtby is expected to start again tonight and owns a 6-3-0 mark and 2.08 goals against average in nine lifetime games against the Hurricanes.

Carolina is second from the bottom in the East standings, but the club was able to play spoiler with Tuesday's win over playoff-hopeful Philadelphia and hopes to repeat that success tonight.

Justin Faulk tallied a goal and an assist to power the Hurricanes to their 4-1 victory over the visiting Flyers. Jordan Staal, Jay McClement and Jeff Skinner all scored, and Alexander Semin supplied two assists for the Hurricanes, who have won two of their last three games.

Cam Ward stopped 23-of-24 shots in his 500th NHL game.

"It was clear that our guys wanted to put in a really strong effort tonight," said Ward.

Anton Khudobin will get the call in net tonight for Carolina. He is 3-2-1 with a 2.81 GAA in six career starts versus the Capitals.

Washington has won five straight and nine of 11 on the road in this series. The Caps have won three in a row overall when facing the Hurricanes.