NHL pluses and minuses: Washington Capitals hit their stride

Washington Capitals taking to new Coach Barry Trotz, have recorded points in last eight games

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the past week:

+ It took a while for the Washington Capitals to adjust to new Ccoach Barry Trotz, but they’ve hit stride and extended their point streak to 7-0-2 after a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday. People are still talking about the dazzling goal by Alexander Ovechkin in the previous victory, 4-0, over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. He dodged two defenders and put the puck through his own legs before slicing a backhander past goaltender Cory Schneider.

+ New York Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot, newly signed to a one-year, $1.45-million contract extension, led his team to its sixth straight victory by stopping 18 shots Sunday in a 1-0 decision over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers' defense and penalty killing have been carrying the load well.

+ That's perseverance: After 14 professional seasons goaltender Rob Zepp made his NHL debut Sunday, summoned by the Philadelphia Flyers after Steve Mason sustained a back injury. Zepp, 33, made the most of his chance — he stopped 25 shots as the Flyers rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory at Winnipeg.

- The Edmonton Oilers have played with more energy since Todd Nelson and General Manager Craig MacTavish replaced Dallas Eakins as co-coaches but the results have been the same. They've lost to Arizona in overtime, to San Jose in regulation, and blew a 5-2 lead over Dallas on Sunday in a 6-5 shootout loss. They're 0-5-2 lately and 1-12-6 since Nov. 11 — a span of nearly a quarter of the season.

- Mumps update: The Pittsburgh Penguins sent Steve Downie, Brandon Sutter and Thomas Greiss home from a trip Monday to be tested for mumps, and the New York Rangers confirmed that forward Lee Stempniak and minor leaguer Joey Crabb had tested positive for the virus. Minor league Coach Ken Gernander also was being tested. The number of cases among NHL players is approaching 20 but has so far been confined to the Penguins, Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Ducks and New Jersey Devils.

- The Detroit Red Wings' scoring malaise continues. They're in an 0-2-4 slump, averaging one goal a game during that span. To make things worse, their loss to Colorado in a nine-round shootout Sunday left them 1-7 in the skills tiebreaker. "We have to find a way to score goals," Coach Mike Babcock said, stating the obvious.

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