Penguins loss sets up critical Saturday matchup vs. Capitals originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Capitals have looked locked into the second wild card in the Eastern Conference for quite some time. Suddenly, however, the standings could be shifting. No, Washington is not in any real danger of falling out of the playoffs, but there is a real chance that they could move up by passing their long-time rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Pittsburgh fell 3-0 to the New York Rangers on Thursday, their third straight loss and fourth loss in five games. That has suddenly narrowed the wide points gap that separated them and the Caps.
The Penguins sit with 92 points in 72 games played while Washington sits just six points back with two games in hand.
And, wouldn't you know it, guess who is playing each other Saturday?
The Caps will travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday for a 3 p.m. matchup. A regulation win will put the Caps just four points back of the Penguins with one game in hand.
There are still a few things going against Washington down the stretch of the season. Pittsburgh owns the first tie-breaker of regulation wins by four (33-29) so tying the Penguins in points likely will not be good enough. The Caps will have to pass them. Washington also has the more difficult schedule down the stretch including a five-game road swing that will take them into Canada and out west.
A regulation win for Pittsburgh may be all the Penguins need to effectively shut the door on Washington moving from fourth to third in the division. But a Caps win? Well, that could make things very interesting.
That makes Saturday's matchup a high-stakes rivalry game and who doesn't love that?