The Washington Capitals' 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Saturday's Winter Classic put a happy ending on a game that was almost a year in the making. The pomp and circumstance is over, however, as the Capitals return to Verizon Center Tuesday to face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning with first place in the Southeast Division on the line.
Since Washington's eight-game losing streak ended December 19, they are 5-0-1, but their 0-6-2 skid allowed their division rivals to catch up and even claim the lead. Considering the Capitals' recent dominance in the Southeast, second place was a weird place to be. That's where the Caps stand entering Tuesday's game against Tampa Bay; both teams have 51 points, but the Lightning have played one less game, giving them the edge.
Meanwhile, the Lightning are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games The Capitals have won the first two matchups of the season, scoring six goals in each game. Washington defeated Tampa Bay 6-0 November 26, but since then, the Lightning are 10-3-3.
Coincidentally, both teams' goal scorers have gone in completely opposite directions since their last meeting. Alexander Semin, who had a natural hat trick November 26, has just one goal since. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos suffered through a six-game goalless drought starting that same day, but now has 10 goals in his last 11 games.
In net for Washington should be Semyon Varlamov, whose pair of brilliant performances last week earned him the NHL's "First Star of the Week." Varlamov stopped 55 of 56 shots in two games against the Montreal Canadiens and the Penguins. On the other side of the net, newly-acuqired Dwayne Roloson is expected to start for Tampa Bay. The Lightning acquired the veteran goaltender in a trade with the New York Islanders earlier this week.