A brutal start, however, ruined any shot of that.
The Caps fell behind 4-0 in Ottawa and ultimately suffered as 5-2 loss to the Senators at Scotiabank Place, once again failing to capitalize on a golden opportunity to earn some points on a night when the teams they're chasing were idle.
Washington wasn't the only team to fail Wednesday -- the Los Angeles Kings were also overwhelmed in a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. The Kings, who have had problems scoring goals all season, could have increased their lead on the ninth-place Calgary Flames, who instead remain just one point back. Colorado, meanwhile, moved within two points of L.A. with the regulation victory.
Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Wednesday's games:
New York Rangers (81 points) were idle Wednesday. They return to action Friday night against the Islanders on Long Island.
Florida (65 points) was off Wednesday. The Panthers will host the Minnesota Wild at the BankAtlantic Center on Thursday night.
The next five:
New Jersey (74 points) was off Wednesday. The Devils host Vancouver on Friday.
Philadelphia (73 points) did not play Wednesday. The Flyers will visit Edmonton on Thursday.
Pittsburgh (73 points) had a day off after Wednesday after shutting out the Rangers on home ice Tuesday. The Pens return to action Saturday night against Tampa Bay at the Consol Energy Center.
Ottawa (72 points after Wednesday's 5-2 win against Washington) made it four in a row with another impressive victory. Back to within two points of the No. 4 seed, Ottawa will host Boston on Saturday night.
Toronto (65 points) did not play Wednesday. The Leafs will face the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.
On the outside looking in:
Winnipeg (65 points) was off Wednesday. The Jets will host Tampa Bay on Thursday at the MTS Centre.
Washington (63 points after Wednesday's 5-2 loss at Ottawa) finished a brutal road trip with another ugly loss. The Caps can't get back to Washington fast enough, where they'll host Montreal on Friday.
Tampa Bay (60 points) was off Wednesday. The Lightning, winners of three straight, are in Winnipeg on Thursday night.
Buffalo Sabres (59 points) was idle Wednesday. The Sabres are back in action Friday night against Boston at First Niagara Center.
New York Islanders (58 points) were also idle Wednesday. The Isles will host the Rangers on Friday night, when they hope to have both Evgeni Nabokov and Travis Hamonic back in the lineup.
Montreal (58 points) was off Wednesday. The Canadiens are in Washington on Friday.
Detroit (84 points) was idle Wednesday. The Red Wings have a huge game Thursday night, as they'll host Vancouver at Joe Louis Arena with first place in the West on the line. The game can be seen on the NHL Network in the United States.
San Jose (69 points) will be glad to get home next week. The Sharks, who were off Wednesday, are 1-4-1 on their nine-game road trip. They will visit Toronto on Thursday night.
The next five:
St. Louis (79 points after Wednesday's 4-2 loss to Boston) failed to distance itself from Nashville with a rare loss on home ice to Boston. The Blues now begin a six-game trip at Nashville on Thursday and have just seven of their last 22 at home.
Nashville (76 points) did not play Wednesday, but smiles were likely easy to find in the Music City thanks to the Blues' loss to the Bruins. The Preds can move within a point of the No. 4 seed with a regulation victory against St. Louis at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night.
Chicago (73 points) was idle Wednesday. The Blackhawks will host Dallas at the United Center on Thursday night.
Phoenix (69 points) did not play Wednesday, but the Coyotes did land Antoine Vermette in a trade with Columbus. Vermette will likely make his Phoenix debut on Thursday night at Calgary.
Los Angeles (66 points after Wednesday's 4-1 loss at Colorado) failed to earn any points in a disappointing loss to the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. The Kings will host Chicago on Saturday night at the Staples Center.
On the outside looking in:
Calgary (65 points) did not play Wednesday. The Flames will host Phoenix on Thursday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Dallas (64 points) was idle Wednesday. The Stars continue their brief road trip with a visit to Chicago on Thursday.
Colorado (64 points after Wednesday's 4-1 win against Los Angeles) picked up two huge points on the Kings and moved within two points of Los Angeles. The Avs are in Columbus on Friday night.
Minnesota (61 points) was idle again Wednesday, but returns to action Thursday night at Florida.
Anaheim (60 points) did not play Wednesday. The Ducks conclude their eight-game road trip Thursday night at Carolina. They are 4-1-2 thus far.
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL