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Red-hot Capitals set to host Lightning

by Brian Compton /

LIGHTNING (16-19-2) at CAPITALS (19-17-2)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 5-4-1; Washington 7-2-1.

Season series: This is the third of four meetings. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals have split the first two games of their season series. Both contests were played at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Big story: The rivalry resumes between these Southeast Division rivals Sunday night at Verizon Center, where the Capitals hope to continue their push towards a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Washington is 7-1-1 in its past nine games and has pulled even with the Winnipeg Jets at 40 points apiece atop the division. The Caps also have two games in hand on the Jets.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is on life support. The Lightning lost to the New York Islanders in regulation Saturday to fall eight points back for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning, however, have two games in hand on the Islanders.

Team scope:

Lightning: Tampa Bay rallied erased a one-goal deficit twice Saturday, but Matt Martin broke a 2-2 tie with 6:26 remaining in regulation and the Lightning were unable to tie it for a third time in a 4-2 loss at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Richard Panik and Matt Carle scored for the Lightning, who lost for the first time in regulation since Jon Cooper replaced Guy Boucher as coach on March 25.

"We didn't do a good job of puck management," said Cooper, whose club turned the puck over 31 times against New York “We have to do a better job of that if we want to be successful."

Capitals: Washington possesses the best power play in the NHL. The Florida Panthers found that out the hard way Saturday.

Alex Ovechkin continued his torrid scoring pace with a hat trick and the Caps scored three times via the man advantage, then hung on for a 4-3 victory at the BB&T Center. The Panthers tallied two quick strikes before the midway point in the third period before Tomas Kopecky scored in the final minute to give the Caps a scare.

In the end, though, the Caps got what they needed from Florida – two points in the standings.

“We play our way,” Ovechkin said. “When everybody gets into the play and everybody plays hard and plays simple, it’s going to work, especially with the kind of opportunities we had on the power play.”

Who’s hot: Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos earned an assist Saturday and has four goals and five assists in his past six games. … With his 12th career hat trick Saturday, Ovechkin now has 13 goals in his past 13 games.

Injury report: Lightning forwards Pierre-Cedric Labrie (upper body) and Ryan Malone (shoulder) are on injured reserve. … Martin Erat, who was acquired by Washington last Wednesday, suffered a lower-body injury in the opening period of Saturday’s game and did not return. Caps defenseman Tom Poti (back) is out.

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