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First place on the line for Caps, Bolts

by Brian Compton
CAPITALS (36-20-10) at LIGHTNING (37-21-7)


Last 10 -- Washington 7-3-0; Tampa Bay 4-4-2.

Season series – This is the sixth and final meeting between the Southeast Division rivals. Washington is 3-1-1 against Tampa Bay, but has been shut out by the Bolts twice. The Caps won the most recent meeting, a 5-2 decision on Feb. 4 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Big story – First place is on the line in front of a nationally-televised audience. Washington seized the division lead on Sunday with a 3-2 overtime victory at Florida, which dropped the Lightning from third to fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope:

Capitals – Washington enters Monday’s showdown having won four consecutive games. The streak continued when Alexander Semin beat Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen just 48 seconds into overtime. It’s the longest winning streak for the Caps since Nov. 24-Dec. 1.

"Hopefully this winning streak can give us the confidence we need for the upcoming games," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We're looking forward now and we have to be focused, especially since we have to play tomorrow in Tampa."

Lightning – Tampa Bay has lost three straight games and has scored only four goals during that span. The skid continued on Saturday night, when the Bolts dropped a 4-2 decision to Montreal at the St. Pete Times Forum. It was the opener of a four-game homestand.

"You battle a lot of adversity throughout the year and right now we're in the middle of it," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. "We've been facing adversity all year. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We've been grinding it out all year."

Who's hot – Alex Ovechkin had an assist Sunday, extending his point streak to four games. … Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier has eight goals in his last 11 games. Dominic Moore has a pair of power-play goals in his last three contests.

Injury report – Caps defenseman Mike Green (head) missed his fourth straight game on Sunday. Washington is also expected to be without Tom Poti (groin), Eric Fehr (upper body) and Semyon Varlamov (knee). … Mike Lundin and Ryan Malone are out for the Bolts, while Steve Downie (lower body) is day-to-day.

Stat pack – Washington's last seven victories have been by one goal. The Caps are 23-0-2 when leading after two periods. … Tampa Bay has lost three consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Nov. 11-14, when the Lightning lost games in Washington, Pittsburgh and at home to Minnesota.

Puck drop -- "Our urgency level was very low and theirs was very high. The teams that are chasing us right now seem to have more urgency." – Lightning coach Guy Boucher after Saturday's 4-2 loss to Montreal
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