The Washington Capitals have been tied or trailing in the third period of their past three games, but that hasn't stopped them from picking up three wins.
The Capitals' late-game heroics and some fantastic penalty killing have been the keys to their hot start, one they'll look to continue with a fifth straight victory Tuesday night in the opener of a home-and-home set with the visiting Boston Bruins.
Alex Ovechkin scored an overtime winner to help lift Washington (4-1-0) past Ottawa 3-2 on Oct. 11, then had his slap shot redirected by Nicklas Backstrom late in the third period to seal a 2-1 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday.
The Capitals seemed to be in dire shape Saturday, when they trailed Nashville 2-0 on the road after 40 minutes. But two third-period goals forced overtime, and another deflection on a shot by Ovechkin -- this time by Brooks Laich -- gave Washington another 3-2 overtime victory.
"I think the last 30 minutes or so, and especially the last 20, we showed that we wanted the game and we came out with a good outcome," defenseman John Erskine told the Capitals' official website.
Neither Washington's comeback ability nor Ovechkin's fast start (four goals, four assists) are surprising, but its league-leading penalty kill certainly is. The Capitals finished 18 points ahead of their closest Eastern Conference competitor last season despite a penalty kill that was 24th (78.8 percent), but thus far they've stopped each of their opponent's 21 power-play chances.
Much of that success certainly has hinged on goaltender Michal Neuvirth. After starting just 19 games over his first two years in the NHL, Neuvirth has been between the pipes for all five of Washington's games thus far -- posting a 1.71 goals-against average after a season-opening loss.
"Michal's playing really well out there," Laich said. "He's making the big saves and he's given us a chance to win."
While the Capitals could find themselves with a goaltending controversy with Semyon Varlamov (groin) getting healthy, the Bruins (2-1-0) may already be in the midst of one.
If Tim Thomas keeps playing the way he has, they're not going to complain. The 2009 Vezina Trophy winner, who became a backup with the emergence of league GAA leader Tuukka Rask last season, is 2-0-0 with a 0.50 GAA after making 31 stops in a 4-1 win over New Jersey on Saturday.
"It's good to have the lead," said Thomas, who saw the Bruins bounce back from a 1-0 deficit with four goals in 12 1/2 minutes in the second period. "And my D did a really good job on clearing those rebounds."
Coach Claude Julien said both Thomas and Rask are likely to play this week, with the Capitals visiting Boston on Thursday. Rask has faced Washington once, while Thomas is 10-4-2 with a 2.62 GAA.
The Bruins haven't had much success against the Capitals lately regardless of who's been in net. Washington has outscored Boston 26-16 in going 7-0-2 in the teams' past nine meetings.
The Capitals are banged up defensively for this matchup. Mike Green is likely out with an upper-body injury, while fellow defensemen Tom Poti and John Carlson are questionable.
Washington is 21-2-3 at the Verizon Center in the regular season since Jan. 1.