CAPITALS (35-28-6) at ISLANDERS (28-31-10)
TV: CSN-MA+, MSG PLUS
Last 10: Washington 6-3-1; New York 3-5-2
Season Series: Fourth and final meeting of the season. The Islanders won the first two and were leading the third 2-0 with less than four minutes left in regulation on Feb. 28 at Verizon Center before Troy Brouwer scored twice to force overtime and Alex Ovechkin beat Evgeni Nabokov in the extra period to give the Capitals a stunning 3-2 victory.
Big Story: Over the past week, each team's fortunes in the Eastern Conference playoff race have taken a turn similar to the last time they played. The Capitals are suddenly looking up again, as they've moved back into the eighth seed and are just one point behind the Panthers for first in the Southeast Division. On the flip side, the Islanders enter on an 0-2-1 skid that dropped them 10 points behind the Caps and has them all but mathematically eliminated.
Capitals: This marks the beginning of a key five-game road trip for Washington, which comes off a very productive weekend. The Capitals claimed a huge road win Saturday over the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins, and then returned home to Verizon Center to play the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Brooks Laich capitalized on a Toronto mistake to score a shorthanded goal midway through the first, and that was all the offense Michal Neuvirth would require. He stopped all 23 shots he faced and Mathieu Perreault scored early in the third as the Capitals won, 2-0.
"We didn't really give them anything," Perreault said. "They had a few chances, but nothing crazy. I think we kept them to the outside a lot and we took their speed away. They've got a lot of speed and we took that away from them."
Islanders: It was the exact opposite type of weekend for New York, which let a one-goal lead slip in the final minutes at home Saturday against New Jersey and came away without a point, something the Islanders can ill afford at this point in the season. Sunday's game with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden was frustrating in its own right -- the Isles held three separate leads courtesy of goals by John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Andrew MacDonald, but surrendered all three and lost 4-3 on a power-play goal by Marian Gaborik with 5.8 seconds left in overtime.
"This was a very tough loss," forward Frans Nielsen said. "They outworked us when it counted. That's the bottom line. We have to be better. We made some good plays but not enough good plays."
Who's Hot: Laich has goals in consecutive games and 3 goals in his last four for the Capitals. Dennis Wideman has an assist in four straight. … Tavares has goals in consecutive games for the Islanders.
Injury Report: Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) is on injured reserve. … New York forwards Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin missed the weekend's games due to flu-like symptoms. Goalie Al Montoya is sidelined with an upper-body injury, while goalie Rick DiPietro is on injured reserve recovering from sports hernia surgery.
Stat Pack: It took only 28 minutes to play the second period of Sunday's Capitals-Maple Leafs game, which lasted 2:11 from start to finish and featured just 39 faceoffs. … Moulson is one goal away from recording his third straight season of 30 or more.
Puck Drop: The road trip for Washington will continue in Winnipeg, a game with major postseason implications, followed by stops against three teams already in playoff position: Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.
"You need to get as much momentum [as possible] going into" the road trip, defenseman Karl Alzner said in the Washington Post. "After our last road win, that's something else that we're excited about. It give us a little bit more to feed off of it."