Lightning (16-19-2, 34 Points) at Capitals (19-17-2, 40 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
This is the third of four total meetings on the year between the two Southeast Division rivals. The teams thus far have split the season series, winning a game each, with the Lightning taking the season-opener by a 6-3 score on January 19, and the Capitals countering with a triumph over their own on February 14. The clubs wrap up the season set next week on April 13 in Washington.
The Big Story:
Both teams are coming off games the previous night, as Sunday’s contest concludes a back-to-back set for each club. Tampa Bay saw its consecutive game points streak halted at four with its first regulation loss under head coach Jon Cooper on Saturday against the Islanders, while Washington continues to surge in its push for the playoffs, earning a victory on Saturday night to propel the team into first place in the Southeast Division.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay makes its last stop on its three-game road trip, skating in the nation’s capital against its Southeast Division rivals in a game that very well could carry playoff implications. The Bolts had found some early success under head coach Jon Cooper since his arrival, going 2-0-1, but that same good fortune hit a bump on Saturday night in a 4-2 defeat to the New York Islanders. The Lightning came back twice from a pair of one-goal deficits, getting goals from Richard Panik and Matt Carle, as well as 24 saves from Ben Bishop, but it was Matt Martin’s goal at 13:34 of the third that stood up as the game-winner to drop the Lightning and help the Islanders improve to 6-1-1 in their past eight games.
CAPITALS – Washington returns home to the Verizon Center for one game after returning from South Florida on Saturday night, where the team earned a 4-3 win over the Panthers. Alex Ovechkin recorded a hat trick, with one of his three goals on the night coming on the power play, while Mike Ribeiro had the other goal for the Capitals, which continue to play at a high level following a slow start to the season. Saturday’s win was Washington’s third in a row, but the Capitals have also earned victories in seven of their past nine, and at least a point in all but one of those nine.
Tampa Bay’s Matt Carle has points in four consecutive games, with each of his past two contests being multi-point efforts. Alex Killorn also has four points in as many games for the Bolts. Washington forward Alex Ovechkin had three goals on Saturday night to boost his total to five over his past three games, while Capitals defenseman Mike Green is riding a five-game point streak with five goals and seven points over that span.
LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Anders Lindback (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve) and Victor Hedman (Lower Body). CAPITALS – Tom Poti (Back).
Connections: Nate Thompson and Capitals forward Joey Crabb were teammates during the NHL lockout with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. Former Lightning assistant Adam Oates is now serving as head coach of the Capitals.
“We’re playing ever game like it’s Game 7 of the playoffs. We know what’s at stake, we know what the standings are, but we’re focusing and just taking it game by game.” – Lightning defenseman Keith Aulie, on how the team needs to play throughout the remainder of the season
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