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Southeast's best meet again in Washington

by Dave Lozo
LIGHTNING (13-7-2) at CAPITALS (15-6-2)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 6-4-0; Washington 6-2-2

Season series:
This is the second of six meetings between the Southeast Division rivals. The Capitals beat the Lightning 6-3 Nov. 11 at Verizon Center.

Big story: After coasting through the Southeast Division the past two seasons, the Capitals finally have a rival who likely will battle them all season. At this same point last season, the Caps already had a nine-point lead in the division. With a win Friday, the Lightning will be only two points back of the Caps.

Team scope:

Capitals: After three lackluster performances that resulted in three losses, the Caps emerged with a 3-2 victory in Carolina on Wednesday. Alex Ovechkin had 3 assists and set up both of Nicklas Backstrom's goals, a major role reversal.

"We bent a little, but we didn't break," said Brooks Laich, who scored the winner after the Caps squandered a 2-0 lead. "It's a good sign when they tied it up that we still came back and pushed back and were able to score. Once we did, we didn't give them any chances to tie it up. ... Get the winning attitude back and get over this little slide that we had and go home feeling good."

Lightning: A five-game winning streak has the Lightning breathing down the Caps' necks. They built a 5-0 lead against the New York Rangers on Wednesday before finishing a 5-3 victory.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher was upset with the three third-period goals scored by the Rangers.

"It's a lack of respect for the opponent, a lack of respect for our standards," Boucher said. "Everything in the third period just showed that we lacked respect. Unacceptable, and the players know it. It leaves a real bad taste."

Who's hot: Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos is the definition of hot. He has 38 points in 22 games and only gone without a point in only three of those games. … Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has 3 goals in his last three games.

Injury report: Lightning forward Simon Gagne (neck) is close to returning, but might need more practice time. Vincent Lecavalier (hand) won't return until December. … The Caps were without Mike Green, Tyler Sloan, Mike Knuble and Michal Neuvirth for Wednesday's game in Carolina.

Stat pack: The Lightning haven't won six straight games since they won 11 straight from Feb. 23-March 12, 2004. … The Caps have allowed a power-play goal in eight of the last nine games.

Puck drop: "It's a win, five in a row, and we take pride in that. We definitely don't feel as good as we would have after our play in the third." -- Steven Stamkos, after Wednesday's 5-3 win against the Rangers, who scored three third-period goals.
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