The Montreal Canadiens are enjoying their second four-game win streak of the season while the Washington Capitals are mired in their longest slide.
Two teams headed in different directions meet Friday evening when the visiting Canadiens look to hand the Capitals a fifth straight defeat.
Montreal (14-9-2) matched its longest win streak of the season with a 3-1 victory at Buffalo on Wednesday. Andrei Markov assisted on all of the goals to give him six points during a four-game point streak that has coincided with this winning run.
Two of the defenseman's assists came with the man advantage as the Canadiens converted on 2 of 4 opportunities.
"He's such a smart player," coach Michel Therrien said. "He sees the ice well. He's got experience and his conditioning is great because he's put a lot of effort at it."
Washington (12-11-2) is 0-3-1 in its last four games, including three at home, after Wednesday's 6-4 loss to Ottawa. The Capitals led 3-1 after one period before collapsing.
"I think we saw two very different teams tonight from us," center Brooks Laich said. "We saw a very good hockey team in the first period with 18 shots and three goals and did a lot of things right and then the rest of the game we saw a very bad hockey team."
Coach Adam Oates seemed to challenge his star players after a night in which his team was outshot 41-33 and conceded three power-play goals.
"We got the goals from doing the right things," Oates said. "We gotta be disciplined in who we are. Even our fancy guys. Probably from the fancy guys first because some guys they know that they got no choice but guys with choices still have to put it deep."
One of those "fancy guys" no doubt is Alex Ovechkin, tied for the NHL lead with 20 goals.
Ovechkin will look to have a similar offensive impact as he did last Friday when these teams also met at the Verizon Center. He scored both goals for Washington, which fell 3-2 in the teams' first matchup this season.
The Canadiens jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 13:40 of that contest in which both teams started backup goalies - Peter Budaj for Montreal and Michal Neuvirth for Washington.
That could be the case again for this matchup with both teams also having games Saturday. While Oates has not announced a choice between Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, Therrien has decided to again use Budaj while saving Carey Price for the next night against Toronto. Budaj is 4-1-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average - all on the road.
Another key to Montreal's four-game run has been the five points in that span from David Desharnais, who had one point in his first 19 games.
"In the last two weeks he's played well," Therrien said. "He's competing well. He's working hard at both sides of the ice."
Both teams excel on the power play, with Washington at 24.5 percent and Montreal at 24.0. The Capitals' penalty kill is struggling, allowing nine goals in opponents' last 25 chances.
Washington is seeking to avoid its longest slide since going 0-6-2 from Dec. 2-18, 2010.