The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning met last Tuesday with the Southeast Division lead on the line. Tampa Bay escaped Verizon Center with a 1-0 overtime win, giving them a one-point lead in the division with one game in hand. One week later, the teams have played the same amount of games and have the same amount of points, making Wednesday's game even more important.
The Caps and Lightning are tied with 55 points, but Tampa Bay has the edge in the division standings because they have one more win than Washington. This is the fourth meeting between the two teams this season, but first at St. Pete Times Forum. Washington is 2-0-1 against Tampa Bay and has outscored them 12-4 despite last Tuesday's shutout.
Since their eight-game losing streak ended December 19, the Capitals have earned points in nine straight games (6-0-3). Tuesday's overtime loss to the Florida Panthers didn't come easy; the Caps trailed 3-0 in the second period before mounting a comeback that forced the game into overtime.
At this point last season, the Capitals already had a 14-point lead in the Southeast Division, but the Lightning are already looking to change that. Tampa Bay is 12-3-2 at home and has won six of seven in their home arena, but is also 6-3-1 in their last 10 games overall. Martin St. Louis told the press that the Lightning are treating Wednesday's game like a playoff game, so both teams know the importance of having any sort of wiggle room in the division.
Semyon Varlamov should get the start in net for the Capitals, while oft-injured Boyd Gordon expects to return to the lineup for the first time since December 12.