Capitals look to end 20-year drought in San Jose

Capitals look to end 20-year drought in San Jose
March 22, 2014, 6:00 pm
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How long has it been since the Capitals last won a game in San Jose?

President Bill Clinton was in his first year in office, gas prices were a thrifty $1.09 a gallon and Late Night with David Letterman was in its first season.

The date was Oct. 30, 1993. Rick Tabaracci was the Caps’ goalie and Craig Berube and Alan May were their enforcers. Heck, even an aging Dave Poulin was on that team.

“We know it’s been a long time,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We probably don’t want to know how long.”

Caps rookie Tom Wilson wouldn’t remember. He wasn’t even born yet. And 21-year-old Evgeny Kuznetsov was waddling around in diapers.

Since that 4-2 victory over Arturs Irbe and the Sharks, the Caps have gone 0-11-1 in San Jose and have been outscored 46-23 in those 12 visits.

The Caps haven’t had much more success at home against the Sharks. Since the 1999-2000 season the Caps are 1-15-2 overall against the Sharks.

Which brings us to tonight’s 10:30 p.m. puck drop on CSN.

The Capitals have a chance to become the first NHL team this season to skate out of California with five points in consecutive games against the Ducks, Kings and Sharks.

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Including a regulation win over Anaheim and a shootout loss in L.A., the Caps are 3-0-1 in their last four games but still find themselves in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings with 77 points, one behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, two behind the Detroit Red Wings and three behind New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Which makes tonight’s game at SAP critical to the Caps’ playoff chances. The Sharks are 26-5-4 at home this season, second only to the Bruins in home wins.

“It’s a fast barn,” Capitals coach Adam Oates told reporters. “It’s intimidating, but it’s also fun. As a player, you’ve got to welcome those challenges to want to play in that kind of environment.”

The Sharks are battling the Ducks for the Pacific Division lead and coming off a win over Anaheim on Thursday, giving them a 9-2-1 record since the Olympic break. The Caps are 6-4-2 since returning from the Sochi siesta.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he has two concerns going into tonight’s game. The Caps’ league-leading power play, and his own team’s complacency.

“Their power play alone can win them games,” McLellan said. “They move the puck so well, they’ve got trigger men all over the place on that power play, and if you spend a lot of time in the penalty box, no matter how good your penalty kill is, they’ll eventually get one by you. That’s a huge, huge factor for us.

“Coming back and playing after an emotional game against Anaheim. The concern will be, can we get back to that emotional level again? I believe we can, and we have to. That will be the second concern.”

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