One night after beating one of the league's most surprising teams, the surging Ottawa Senators will try to do the same to another when they face the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on Wednesday.
The Senators (15-12-1) struggled at the beginning of this season, but their recent play has made a 6-10-1 start a distant memory.
A 4-2 victory over the Atlantic Division-leading New York Islanders on Tuesday was Ottawa's fourth straight win and its eighth in nine games. The Senators have outscored opponents 38-18 during those nine contests.
"We just weren't playing well early on as a group," right wing Dany Heatley said. "Once we got in a hole we realized we've got to get going."
Heatley continued his torrid scoring with two goals, giving him seven goals and 11 points in his last six games. Jason Spezza added a goal and two assists, and has four goals and six assists during a six-game points streak.
The only bad news to come out of Tuesday's win for the Senators was an injury sustained by captain Daniel Alfredsson, who left in the third period with an ailing leg. Alfredsson was checked by Islanders defenseman Tom Poti and struggled to get to the bench before skating gingerly to the dressing room at the next whistle.
"I just tweaked the muscle a little bit," Alfredsson said. "It feels better now and we'll see how it goes tomorrow."
With games on consecutive nights, backup goalie Martin Gerber started Tuesday and made 24 saves for the win.
"I don't want him to sit forever," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "He struggled early as our team did but it looks like he's got it back."
Ray Emery figures to be back in net Wednesday, looking to win for the seventh time in eight decisions. Emery, among the NHL leaders with a 2.08 goals-against average, has surrendered 15 goals in his last seven games.
Little was expected from the Capitals (11-9-6) after they finished last in the Southeast Division last season, but they have won three straight against some of the league's top teams.
Washington started its longest win streak of the season with a victory over Tampa Bay, then beat Dallas before knocking off Buffalo 7-4 on Saturday.
"We seem to play our best hockey against the best teams," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. "I don't think that's uncommon for a lot of teams. There's a fear factor about getting embarrassed, and that's a motivating factor sometimes."
Richard Zednik and Bryan Muir scored 34 seconds apart during a four-goal first period and the Caps overcame Alexander Ovechkin's first career ejection.
Ovechkin scored his fourth goal in five games and his team-high 17th before he received a game misconduct for checking Buffalo's Daniel Briere in the second period.
"It left a big hole in our lineup, even for a period and a half. ... We're going to have to play some nights without (Ovechkin), whether it's an injury or something like this," Washington's Matt Pettinger said. "We showed tonight we can battle when that happens."
The Capitals have sent the opposing goaltender to the bench early in each of their last three games, an NHL first this season.
Washington scored four unanswered goals, including Chris Clark's tally 1:33 into overtime, in a 4-3 win over the Senators on Nov. 6. Ottawa, though, has seven wins, a regulation loss, an overtime loss and a tie in the past 10 meetings.