Capitals vs. Lightning Preview
TAMPA, FL (AP) - Washington's current surge combined with Tampa Bay's recent struggles have propelled the Capitals back to the top of the Southeast Division for the first time in more than two months.View Current Tampa Bay Lightning Odds
The visiting Capitals look to increase their division lead over the Lightning with a fifth consecutive victory Monday night in the teams' final regular-season meeting.
A month ago, Washington (36-20-10) was mired in a three-game skid and trailing Tampa Bay in the division. Since then, the Capitals have won seven of nine, including four straight. All seven of those victories have been by one goal.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Lightning -115 money line favorites for Monday's game against the Capitals. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 91% of more than 57 bets for this game have been placed on the Capitals +106.
"Hopefully this winning streak can give us the confidence we need for the upcoming games,'' Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom said
The Lightning (37-21-7), meanwhile, have lost three straight and are in the midst of a 5-6-2 stretch that began with a 5-2 home loss to Washington on Feb. 4.
"You battle a lot of adversity throughout the year and right now we're in the middle of it," All-Star Martin St. Louis told the Lightning's official website."
Tampa Bay now finds itself chasing the Capitals, who won 3-2 in overtime at Florida on Sunday to move ahead of the Lightning by one point for their first division lead since they shared the top spot Jan. 17.
The teams also swapped places in the Eastern Conference with the Capitals third and Lightning fifth.
"We're looking forward now and we have to be focused, especially since we have to play (Monday) in Tampa," Backstrom said.
Washington is 3-1-1 versus the Lightning this season and split both previous meetings at Tampa Bay. The Capitals totaled 17 goals in the three victories and been shut out in the losses.
Alex Ovechkin had a goal with three assists and Backstrom added two of each in last month's victory at Tampa Bay.
Backstrom, who has goals in two straight games after failing to score in six in a row, also has eight assists against the Lightning this season. Ovechkin has a goal and five assists during the Capitals' winning streak, and two with seven assists versus Tampa Bay in 2010-11.
Michal Neuvirth could be back in net after making 32 saves Sunday to extend his Capitals rookie record with his 22nd victory. Though he has a 3.43 goals-against average versus Tampa Bay, Neuvirth has won two of three against the Lightning.
Tampa Bay has scored nine goals versus Washington this season, and just four during its three-game losing stretch. The Lightning have not scored more than two goals over the last five contests.
"It's definitely a struggle right now,'' Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "We've got to get back to taking the shots and putting back rebounds."
Lecavalier and Dominic Moore each scored in a 4-2 home loss to Montreal on Saturday.
Steven Stamkos, the NHL leader with 41 goals, has been held to one goal in 11 games and without a point in a season-high four straight contests. He's gone scoreless the last four against the Capitals after recording a goal and assist in a 6-3 loss at Washington on Nov. 11.
After posting consecutive shutouts against the Capitals, Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson gave up four goals on 35 shots versus Washington last month. He's given up six while dropping his last two starts overall.