The Washington Capitals haven’t lost at home since 2009, and the NHL leaders play their next five games at the Verizon Center to try and pad their lead atop the Eastern Conference.
The Tampa Bay Lightning probably won’t be thrilled to visit twice during Washington’s homestand.
The Capitals return home Thursday for the first time in nearly a month looking for their 12th straight win in the District of Columbia, where the Lightning have lost their last six.
Most of Washington’s 14-game winning streak between Jan. 13 and Feb. 7 came at home, and the streak only ended when the team went 0-1-2 on a three-game road trip before the Olympic break.
The Capitals (42-13-8) snapped that skid with a 3-1 win at Buffalo on Wednesday night, increasing their lead atop the East to 13 points over New Jersey.
Despite putting 40 shots on goal, the Capitals’ league-leading offense was relatively quiet against Sabres goalie and Olympic MVP Ryan Miller(notes), with the powerful trio of Alex Ovechkin(notes), Alexander Semin(notes) and Nicklas Backstrom(notes) all held without a point.
But Washington got the game-winning goal midway through the third period from defenseman Mike Green(notes) before adding an empty-netter. The team also benefited from a strong outing by goalie Jose Theodore(notes), who improved to 11-0-2 in his last 13 starts with 23 saves.
“He makes the saves, and that’s what wins you the big games,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s what Miller does for (Buffalo), and that’s what we got from Jose.”
Since the NHL lockout, Theodore is 6-1-0 with a 2.25 goals-against average against the Lightning. Ovechkin has also been at his best against Tampa Bay, with 23 goals and 23 assists in 33 career games against his Southeast Division rivals.
Washington closes its homestand against the Lightning on March 12.
The Capitals had won 12 in a row against the Lightning before a 7-4 loss at Tampa Bay on Jan. 12, but the Lightning lost their sixth straight at Washington on Jan. 31. Ovechkin’s late goal provided the winning margin in a 3-2 victory.
Washington may have gotten even stronger on Wednesday, adding defensemen Joe Corvo(notes) and Milan Jurcina(notes) and forwards Eric Belanger(notes) and Scott Walker(notes) in various deals before the trade deadline. Those players could make their debuts Thursday.
Tampa Bay (26-25-11) is two points out of eighth place in the East, but the team’s post-Olympic stretch did not get off to a promising start with a 7-2 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
In their fourth straight defeat overall, the Lightning racked up 28 penalty minutes and gave up three power-play goals.
“I don’t think the score is an indication of the way the game went,” Lightning forward Martin St. Louis(notes) said. “Undisciplined in terms of taking penalties. A couple I thought were borderline, but that’s the way the game is. Sometimes they go against you.”
In his last two games against Washington, the 20-year-old has three goals and two assists.