Capitals-Lightning Preview

The Associated Press

Alex Ovechkin has been among the biggest reasons for the Washington Capitals' regular-season mastery of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

However, the superstar won't be around Tuesday night to help his team continue that success.

The Capitals will try to add to that domination without their captain and leading scorer when they visit the Lightning, who are looking to extend their longest winning streak of the season.

Washington (26-19-3) is 21-3-1 in its last 25 regular-season meetings with Tampa Bay, including wins in both matchups this season.

The Capitals failed to carry that dominance into the playoffs last season, getting swept by the Lightning in the second round for another early exit.

Ovechkin had four points in that postseason series, and has 27 goals and 34 assists in 44 regular-season matchups with the Southeast Division rivals.

He had a power-play goal in a 4-3 home win against Tampa Bay (21-23-4) on Jan. 13, but Washington will need to find goals from other sources.

Ovechkin - the team leader with 20 goals - is out the next two games as he continues to serve his three-game suspension for a hit on Pittsburgh's Zbynek Michalek in a 4-3 overtime loss Jan. 22.

He skipped last weekend's All-Star game in an effort to avoid being a distraction.

Mathieu Perreault picked up the scoring slack in Ovechkin's absence, with his first career hat trick in last Tuesday's 5-3 win over Boston. The center has seven goals on the season, and none in five games versus Tampa Bay.

"It was outstanding," forward Matt Hendricks said. "Kid's been working extremely hard all season. He's been in and out of the lineup. He comes to the rink with that smile on his face and he's got a great personality, great guy to be around. I feel great for him. I'm so happy. Everybody else in this room I'm sure feels the same way."

Dennis Wideman was the Capitals' lone representative at Sunday's All-Star game, getting an assist for Team Chara in a 12-9 victory over Team Alfredsson.

The defenseman also found the net against the Bruins last week, giving him four goals and seven assists in 12 games. He has three points in two meetings with the Lightning this season.

Tampa Bay is hoping the break hasn't hampered its momentum from a season-high four-game winning streak - a surge that continued with a 4-2 victory over Columbus last Tuesday.

"If you're going to get a break, you want to finish on a winning note," right wing Martin St. Louis said. "Keep the streak alive, and come back where you left off."

St. Louis has been key to the Lightning's strong play, tallying two goals and eight assists during a six-game point streak that started with a pair of assists at Washington on Jan. 13. He has goals in each of the last two games after going 13 contests without one.

Teammate Steven Stamkos leads the NHL with 32 goals, but the All-Star has just two in his last 10 regular-season meetings with Washington.

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