The Washington Capitals hope a recent surge will continue and lead them to their first playoff appearance since 2003.
The Capitals look for a third straight victory as they continue their season-long six-game road trip Thursday night against the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning.
Washington (38-31-8) won 3-2 in a shootout over Southeast Division-leader Carolina on Tuesday to improve to 3-1-0 on the road trip and move within two points of Boston, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with five games remaining.
The Capitals conclude their final road swing at Florida on Saturday before finishing with three home games.
“All we can do is win,” said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team has won six of its last seven. “We’ve just got to keep winning and hope for the best.”
The Capitals hope to continue their recent successful run while trying for a fourth consecutive victory over Tampa Bay (30-38-8), which has been eliminated from the playoff race and owns the worst record in the East.
Washington is 4-2-0 versus the Lightning and won each of the last three meetings between the teams by a 3-2 score. The Capitals, 18-16-5 on the road, have won their last two at Tampa Bay, including the most recent matchup on Feb. 16.
On Tuesday, Alexander Ovechkin scored his league-best and club-record 61st goal, while Viktor Kozlov recorded the winner in the third round of the shootout for Washington, which has eight goals in its last two games after losing 5-0 at Chicago on March 19.
Ovechkin, who has a career-best 107 points, has three goals in his last two contests and three with three assists versus Tampa Bay this season.
“It’s fun to score goals, especially when you break some records,” said Ovechkin, who broke Dennis Maruk’s 26-year-old club mark for goals in a season. “Records are records, but it’s still about winning, it’s still about team and it was a big victory for us, a big goal for my team.”
Cristobal Huet made 25 saves for his fourth straight victory. Huet, 6-2-0 with a 1.92 goals-against average since being traded to Washington from Montreal, could be in goal again Thursday and is 6-3-0 with a 2.24 GAA in his career versus Tampa Bay.
After delivering a blow to Florida’s slim playoff hopes with a 3-1 victory over the Panthers on Tuesday, Tampa Bay looks for a second straight victory over another postseason hopeful Thursday.
Halpern has seven goals and eight assists in 13 games with Tampa Bay since being acquired in a trade with Dallas last month.
These teams will conclude their season series next Thursday in Washington.