Canadiens-Capitals Preview

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The start of the 2015 portion of the NHL schedule was Montreal's time. The end is threatening to cancel out that success, and the slide started with an early December loss to Washington - the team which has since taken over.

The Capitals were already soaring at that time, and they haven't come down since. The next step is returning from the Christmas break with a strong home showing against the Canadiens on Saturday night to extend their winning streak to a season-best seven games.

Montreal (20-13-3) started the season with nine straight wins and opened December with a victory to get to 19-4-3. A 3-2 home loss to Washington on Dec. 3 then started a 1-9-0 span that has it just one point clear of Boston in the Atlantic Division.

Washington (25-6-2), meanwhile, is 13-1-1 dating to Nov. 21 with two six-game winning streaks, building a sizable lead atop the Eastern Conference. The latest was Monday's 2-1 win in Carolina with goals from Michael Latta and Jason Chimera, who is a goal shy of becoming the sixth Caps player with 10.

The power play was 0 for 2, but Washington ranks second at 25.7 percent behind the Bruins and is at 30.0 percent (15 of 50) over the last 15 games.

"It can't be the power play every game, and the top six guys," center Jay Beagle told the team's official website after assisting on Latta's goal. "It can't be on them every game to score goals. Lats gets us going with that big goal there, and we get one off a draw there. It's nice when we're chipping in and to be successful - especially down the road - you've definitely got to have the third and fourth lines chipping in."

But those expected parts have been the driving force behind the run as the team goes for its longest winning streak since an eight-gamer April 2-16, 2013. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are one of three trios on a given team with at least 30 points each, the others being Dallas and Ottawa.

The Capitals are also looking to win eight consecutive home games for the first time since winning 13 straight Jan. 5-March 6, 2010.

It's been more than two years since Montreal last beat Washington in regulation with the Capitals limiting the Canadiens to 10 goals over a 4-0-2 span.

The Canadiens' slide has them searching for answers on both ends of the ice. In the last 10 games, they've been outscored 3.20-1.50, and that disparity has grown on a five-game losing streak to 3.80-1.00. Montreal last lost six straight Oct. 13-24, 2011, and is also in danger of a six-game road skid for the first time since a seven-gamer March 12-April 5, 2012.

The latest on both streaks was Tuesday's 2-1 loss in Minnesota.

"We meet often. We talk often. It doesn't really need to be aired out there. I think what we need to do is stick with it. We've done a lot of good things," said leading scorer Max Pacioretty, who has one goal and one assist over the last 10 games.

It doesn't help that they're likely to be up against Braden Holtby, who leads the NHL with a 1.96 goals-against average and ranks fifth with a .931 save percentage. He last lost in regulation Nov. 10, going 13-0-1 since.

Holtby is 7-0-2 with a 1.40 GAA against the Canadiens, while Mike Condon's only game against the Capitals was the loss earlier this month. The rookie is 0-6-0 with a 3.16 GAA in eight games dating to that contest.