Although his team was riding a franchise-best start last month, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau knew the results could easily turn for the worse at any time. Much to Boudreau's dismay, that's exactly what has happened.
The Capitals look to snap a season-high four-game skid Monday night when they host a Phoenix Coyotes team off to its best road start since 1998.
He had plenty of reason to boast after the Capitals (10-7-1) netted 29 goals and went 8 for 27 on the power play during a 7-0-0 start, but Boudreau stayed grounded as the club prepared to become just the sixth in NHL history to open a season with eight straight victories.
"Things are going our way right now, but as we all know in sports, they can change in a heartbeat," he said.
Have they ever. In its last 11 games, Washington is scoring 2.5 goals per game and is just 4 of 43 on the power play. The Capitals found the back of the net just three times -- once in each game -- during an 0-3-0 trip that ended with Saturday's 7-1 loss to Toronto.
"It feels like the end of the world but it's not the end of the world," Boudreau said.
The last time Washington went three consecutive games with one goal or fewer was a three-game run Dec. 27-31, 2003.
"I think we have lots of skills on this team and all the lines can score goals, as you've seen in the first 10 games I think," said Alex Ovechkin, who has a team-best seven goals but is scoreless in a season-high four consecutive games. "Right now nobody can score and it's just frustrating that when we have the opportunity to shoot, we're squeezing the sticks too hard. It's hard."
It could get even more difficult for the Capitals, who have lost two in a row at home following a 14-0-1 run in the nation's capital.
The Coyotes (10-5-3) are 6-2-1 outside the desert following Saturday's 4-2 victory over Buffalo. While it's the team's best road start since going 6-1-0 with a tie in 1998-99, there is still room for improvement as Phoenix is just 1 for 21 on the power play in its last nine games.
However, the Coyotes have killed 22 of 23 penalties during that stretch.
Newcomer Mike Smith has been in net for eight of those contests, including a 43-save effort Saturday to improve to 5-2-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average on the road.
Smith, though, has never defeated the Capitals in seven starts, and he's 0-5-0 with a 5.57 GAA in Washington.
Capitals starter Tomas Vokoun has a 2.14 GAA while winning all five of his home starts in 2011-12, but he stopped just 42 of 48 shots on the trip.
Backup Michal Neuvirth was even worse, getting beat seven times on 42 shots.
Neuvirth made 18 saves in a 3-2 loss in Arizona on Feb. 14 when Washington fell for the fifth time in seven matchups with Phoenix.
Led by Alexander Semin's goal and three assists and Ovechkin's two points, the Capitals avoided a fourth consecutive home loss to the Coyotes with a 4-2 victory on Jan. 23, 2010.
Washington's last five-game skid was an 0-6-2 slide from Dec. 2-18.
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