NHL-best Capitals set to host Sharks

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The Washington Capitals and the visiting San Jose Sharks will meet in a Sunday matinee after both scored tough wins this weekend.

Washington is coming off of a 4-3 victory at Carolina on Friday night, beating the team that knocked it out of the playoffs last spring, which ended the Capitals’ dreams of a second straight NHL title.

Rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov came up big for Washington in the win, making 38 saves and holding off a late push by the Hurricanes in the third period.

Samsonov improved to 8-0-0 this season on the road, and Capitals coach Todd Reirden said he was outstanding, especially in an 18-save first period.

“I liked the start to our first [period], and we’re doing some good things and then we take penalties and allow them to get the momentum, and he was really sharp,” Reirden told the team’s website. “So, [he was] definitely the difference maker.”

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller both finished with a goal and an assist to pace the Capitals in the win. Washington struggled in the third period, as the Hurricanes scored three times and put the pressure on, but Carolina took a late penalty that helped the Capitals run time down in the final minute.

Washington (61 points) became the first NHL team to get past 60 points this season. It’s the first time in team history that the Caps became the first team to get at least 60 points, according to the team’s website.

The Capitals had struggled before this game, going 4-4-0 in the previous eight games, and they’ll try for a second straight victory in Sunday’s game.

This will be the only time this season San Jose comes to Washington. It also starts a stretch where the Capitals play five of six games at home.

San Jose, meanwhile, is slowly starting to play better in recent games. The Sharks pulled out a 3-2 victory in Columbus on Saturday and improved to 3-1-1 in their last five contests.

Before that stretch, San Jose was 1-8-1 in its previous 10, so coach Bob Boughner told NHL.com after the Columbus win that he likes how his team has been faring recently.

“I just like the way we’re playing as a 20-man unit,” Boughner told NHL.com. “We’re all on the same page, we’re doing some good things, we’re managing our game.”

The win stopped a 12-game point streak for Columbus. San Jose never trailed against the Blue Jackets. Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow and Evander Kane all scored for the Sharks while goalie Aaron Dell ended up with 21 saves.

Joel Kellman appeared to give San Jose an early lead in the first period, but his goal was waved off when Columbus challenged the play, and the Sharks were called for being offsides.

Penalty killing is something the Sharks have done well all season long. They topped the NHL in that category heading into the Columbus matchup, and San Jose came through again in the win, going 2-for-2 in penalty kills.

That helped the Sharks hand Columbus its first regulation loss since Dec. 7. The Blue Jackets had gone 8-0-4 during that stretch.

–Field Level Media

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