Washington dominated Tampa Bay last season, due largely to outstanding defense. Keeping Brent Johnson in net Monday night would seem to give the Capitals a good chance to continue their run against the Lightning.
With Johnson's strong play creating a quandary for coach Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals look to remain without a regulation loss at home and extend a five-game winning streak versus the Lightning as the Southeast Division rivals meet.
Washington (7-4-2) went 6-2-0 against Tampa Bay (5-4-4) last season, holding the Lightning to 10 goals over the last five games.
The Capitals have been inconsistent defensively this season, but Johnson has helped. He's started three straight games in place of Jose Theodore and gone 2-0-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average during that span. Johnson is 3-1-2 with a 2.12 GAA in six games this season.
Johnson has been Washington's backup goalie for the past six seasons, and there was no indication that would change with the Capitals signing Theodore in July. Johnson, though, is no longer a once-a-week sub, as Theodore has posted a 3.44 GAA.
Johnson had 28 saves - including a pivotal stop on a penalty shot in the third period - to lift Washington past the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers 3-1 on Saturday night.
Johnson hasn't been an everyday player since 2001-02 with St. Louis, but it's been tough for Boudreau to take him out of the lineup.
"He might (start) Monday again, but Wednesday we might have a different No. 1. I'm not into these goalie controversies. If you're playing good, you're playing good," Boudreau said. "Right now Brent is really playing well and he's in a position he hasn't been in for quite a few years. So I hope he's relishing it."
Behind Johnson's strong effort, Washington improved to 5-0-1 at home even though Alex Ovechkin has been held without a goal in a career-high nine straight games.
Ovechkin had an assist Saturday but hasn't scored since a 4-2 win over Chicago on Oct. 11, when he recorded his only two goals of the season. The reigning Hart Trophy winner has 14 goals and 13 assists in 24 games against Tampa Bay.
The Lightning, however, have given up two goals or less in eight games this season, and have by far the NHL's top first-period scoring defense at 0.38 goals allowed.
Tampa Bay did allow a first-period goal against Philadelphia on Saturday night, but Mike Smith finished with 34 saves as the Lightning won 2-1. Vaclav Prospal and Jussi Jokinen scored in the second period after coach Barry Melrose blasted the team for its lackadaisical early play.
"I went in and called them every name under the sun," Melrose said. "I challenged their manhood. And if I have to do that after every first period, I will. When we play hard, we're an excellent team."
With Smith having started the last four games, Melrose could start Olaf Kolzig against his former team.
One of the most popular players in franchise history, Kolzig spent 16 seasons with the Capitals before signing with the Lightning as a free agent on July 1. He is 1-1-1 with a 2.67 GAA in three games with Tampa Bay.
Set to make the fourth stop on a five-game road trip, Tampa Bay is 3-2-1 away from the St. Pete Times Forum.