MONTREAL -- With four games remaining in their regular season and the Eastern Conference playoff picture beginning to clear, the Capitals seem to understand the weight of what lies ahead of them.
“Earlier on, when we were in more of a hole, it was talked about because a lot of people were worried,” said goaltender Braden Holtby, who is expected to get the call tonight in the Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens [6:30 p.m. Capitals Central, CSN].
“Now we know what we have to do. We have four games left to win and we think we’re capable of winning every one of them and that’s our goal.”
With 50 points, the Caps hold a two-point lead over the Winnipeg Jets in the Southeast Division standings. But there remains a distinct possibility that if they don’t claim the division title the Caps could miss the playoffs altogether.
Winnipeg is in ninth place with 48 points, two behind the eighth-place New York Rangers and three behind the seventh-place New York Islanders.
The Jets close out the season with games against the Islanders today, the Sabres on Monday, the Caps on Tuesday and the Canadiens on Thursday.
The Caps close out the season with games against the Canadiens tonight, the Jets on Tuesday, the Senators on Thursday and the Bruins one week from tonight.
One thing is clear to the Caps. They’ll need to play better than they did in Thursday night’s 3-1 loss in Ottawa if they want to secure their fifth Southeast title in six years.
“We need to bounce back right away,” said center Nicklas Backstrom, who sat out the fnal 7 minutes of Thursday night’s loss after his right arm went numb after being hit by a shot from Mike Green.
“Obviously these points are very important and we can’t have any more games like [Thursday]. Have to make smarter plays and work harder. We’re aware of the situation right now, that’s for sure.”
The Capitals will need to stay out of the penalty box against the Canadiens, who own the NHL’s fourth-best power play. They opened their game in Ottawa with a pair of penalties, allowing the Senators to set the tone.
“We didn’t lose the game because the other team beat us. We beat ourselves,” said Alex Ovechkin, who was held without a point for just the third time in 19 games. “We didn’t play well. I don’t know if we were tired out there but we didn’t execute.”
Matt Hendricks said many of the ingredients that were evident throughout the Caps’ eight-game win streak were missing in their loss to the Senators. Most notably were several attempted stretch passes that ultimately led to turnovers.
“We all know what our team can do,” Hendricks said. “We’ve played some of our best hockey and we’ve been virtually mistake free. That’s what makes [Thursday] night’s game so frustrating. We just allowed them to take it to us a little bit.”
The Canadiens snapped a three-game losing streak with Thursday night’s 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning but they have not beaten a team with a winning record since April 6 when they edged Boston. Since then they are 2-4-0.
With 59 points the Canadiens hold a two-point advantage over the Bruins in their bid to win the Northeast Division and secure the second seed in the East. The Bruins, however, have two games in hand.