Avs, Caps square off in DC

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche will try to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games when they visit the Washington Capitals for Monday's battle at Verizon Center.

The Avalanche have tied a season-high with three straight wins and are 5-1-0 over their last six trips to the ice. The surge has Colorado within four points of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Colorado's two most recent wins came on a two-game homestand. The Avs slammed Ottawa 5-2 on Thursday before claiming a 4-3 regulation decision Saturday against Dallas.

The Stars grabbed a 2-0 lead in first half of the opening period at Pepsi Center, but Colorado scored four unanswered goals to take control of the contest. Erik Johnson and John Mitchell evened the score with goals 1:25 apart midway through the second period.

The Avs went ahead on Nathan MacKinnon's tally with nine seconds left in the second period and Matt Duchene picked up the deciding goal early in the third period. Duchene also posted an assist to help Colorado pick up its seventh win in 10 games.

"Sometimes it just does not go in. This time it did," Duchene said of his first goal since Dec. 11. "I kind of took my time there and was able to score it. Hopefully that ended the only kind of stretch like that I'll go through this season."

Semyon Varlamov snagged the win thanks to a 37-save performance and he is expected to be in net again tonight when Colorado faces his old team. The Russian was a first-round pick of Washington in 2006 and he saw action in 59 regular-season games and 19 playoff tilts with the Capitals before getting dealt to the Avalanche in the summer of 2011.

Varlamov is 2-0 with a 1.00 goals against average against his former team. Both of his career starts against the Capitals came last season, as Varlamov earned wins with 40 saves in Washington on Oct. 12, 2013 before stopping 33- of-34 shots in Colorado on Nov. 10, 2013.

The Avs, who are just 7-7-5 on the road this season, begin a five-game swing tonight and will continue the trek with Tuesday's contest at Carolina. Backup netminder Calvin Pickard is expected to start against the Hurricanes.

Like Colorado, Washington also has been on a hot streak of late. The Capitals enter Monday on a seven-game point streak (5-0-2) and boast a 12-1-4 record over their last outings.

The surge has Barry Trotz's club holding onto the first wild card spot in the East, where it sits two points ahead of Boston. The Caps are tied with the New York Rangers for the Metropolitan Division's third automatic postseason bid, but the Blueshirts currently hold the tiebreaker with two games in hand.

Washington had a three-game winning streak snapped with Thursday's overtime loss in Philadelphia, but the Caps bounce back with a win Saturday against Detroit. The 3-1 victory over the Red Wings kicked off a three-game homestand for the Capitals, who improved to 10-5-4 as the host this season.

The Caps received goals from Troy Brouwer, John Carlson and Joel Ward in the win over Detroit. The trio staked Washington to a 3-0 lead and the club held on for the victory despite getting outshot 15-7 in the third period.

"I think we play good with the lead," said Carlson. "I don't think we changed too much after we got it. I thought we kept playing hard and stuck to our game plan like we should."

Braden Holtby made 26 saves in his 18th consecutive start for the Capitals and he could get the call again tonight. Holtby is 1-1-0 with a 3.00 GAA in two career outings versus Colorado.

Washington forward Alex Ovechkin had his goal streak snapped at five games. He has a team-high 21 goals on the season.

The Caps will complete this homestand on Wednesday when the Flyers head to D.C. for a rematch.