The Tampa Bay Lightning visit the nation’s capital tonight to take on the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
Tampa Bay, 24-33-17, has only five road games remaining in the season, and they can cross one of them off after meeting the Capitals this evening.
The Lightning arrive in Washington after dropping an overtime decision to the Montreal Canadiens last night in Montreal. In that contest, Tampa Bay battled back in the latter half of the final period to tie the game at 2-2 before losing late in the overtime period. The game was the 5th of the Lightning’s previous six games to progress to the extra stanza.
Martin St. Louis had his season-high nine-game point streak stopped, but the hard working forward still leads the team in points with 74.
Despite the absence of number one goaltender Mike Smith due to injury, Tampa Bay has been the recipient of some good netminding of late. Lightning interim head coach Rick Tocchet has indicated that Mike McKenna, coming off a 33 save performance in the overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets last week, will get the start against the Capitals
The Capitals, 45-23-7, who have already clinched a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, boast a potent offense led by the NHL’s leading goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin, currently with 51 goals, scored his 50th of the season last Thursday evening when the Capitals defeated the Lightning 5-2 in Tampa. An elaborate planned celebration followed the milestone goal, which proved controversial in NHL circles.
Despite the final score, the Lightning went head-to-head with the Capitals until the visitors pulled away in period three. St. Louis and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay.
Adding to the Capital attack is the presence of defenseman Mike Green. Green leads all NHL defensemen in points, with 65, and goals, with 28. He’s been particularly effective against the Lightning this season, scoring at least one goal in each of the previous four meetings.
Following tonight’s game, Tampa Bay returns home to face the Ottawa Senators on Sunday, before returning to the road to visit Boston on Tuesday night.