It's been 14 years since the Washington Capitals last beat the Blues in St. Louis. There may be an extra bit of motivation to end that streak Wednesday night.
That's when the Capitals will likely face Jaroslav Halak for the first time since he stunned the reigning Presidents' Trophy champions with three straight sparkling performances in goal to end Washington's Stanley Cup dreams in the first round.
Against eighth-seeded Montreal, Washington charged out to a 3-1 series lead and appeared on its way to the conference semifinals.
Then, Halak took over. He limited the high-scoring Caps to a single goal in each of the final three games -- stopping 131 shots, including a 53-save effort in Game 5 -- to help the Canadiens advance.
"I thought we had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said following the Game 7 loss on April 28, "and I would have bet my house that they wouldn't have beaten us three games in a row and we would have only scored three goals in almost 140 shots."
Montreal was eventually eliminated in the conference finals by Philadelphia, and Halak was dealt to St. Louis two weeks before free agency started. After the Blues signed him to a four-year deal, Halak responded by winning eight of his first 10 games with three shutouts and a 1.46 goals-against average. He's cooled off since, going 2-5-1 with a 3.59 GAA.
"He got the best of us then, but it's a new season," Washington forward Matt Bradley said. "We think we've changed as a team."
Washington (17-6-2) has the best record in the East, and is second in the conference with 86 goals, including a team-high 18 from Semin. Ovechkin leads the club with 22 assists and 32 points, and Backstrom is third with 27 points.
The Capitals will be going for their fourth straight victory after Sunday's 3-2 home win over Carolina in a shootout. However, Washington is just 5-5-1 on the road this season, and has dropped eight straight in St. Louis since 1996.
"I'll be put in a defensive role there; I don't think I'll change that up too much," Hannan said.
The Blues (12-8-3) will be trying to avoid their fourth straight loss after falling 7-5 to Chicago on Tuesday. David Backes scored and tied a career high with four points, but backup Ty Conklin stopped only 17 shots.
St. Louis trailed 5-1 before scoring three straight goals bridging the second and third periods. Conklin, though, allowed late tallies to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
"At that point you really have nothing to lose. You're down by four," Backes said of the Blues' rally. "You're in the new NHL and anything is possible. We've had teams come back on us. We showed a little bit of that, but kicked the offense a little too much and didn't continue to take care of our defensive zone."
St. Louis has one of the best home records in the NHL at 8-1-1, but the lone regulation loss came in its most recent home game, a 2-1 defeat to Dallas on Saturday.
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