Streaking Lightning visit Capitals
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to head into the postseason with a fourth straight victory as they visit the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.
The Lightning are set to battle the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs and Friday's 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets put Tampa Bay a point ahead of the Habs for second place in the Atlantic Division.
However, Montreal closed out its regular season with an overtime victory against the New York Rangers on Saturday, putting the Canadiens back into second place by a point.
Montreal also owns the tiebreaker over Tampa Bay with two more non-shootout victories, so the Lightning need two points today to host the upcoming playoff series.
Defenseman Eric Brewer scored twice and Ondrej Palat notched a power-play goal versus the Blue Jackets to push his point streak to six straight games. Palat has four goals and eight points over that run.
With starting goaltender Ben Bishop out with an upper-body injury and his status for the first round unknown, head coach Jon Cooper opted to give Kristers Gudlevskis the start on Friday in case the 21-year-old is needed to back up Anders Lindback in the postseason.
Gudlevskis made his NHL debut a successful one with 36 saves.
"He won. To me, that's how I judge goaltenders. Win the game and that's just what he did," said Cooper of Gudlevskis. "That was as entertaining hockey as we have seen here in awhile."
Gudlevskis has seen plenty of action across multiple platforms this season. He has spent time playing in the ECHL, AHL and also made a name for himself during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia with Team Latvia, which nearly pulled off an upset of Team Canada.
In addition to Bishop, Valtteri Filppula (lower body) and Teddy Purcell (flu) sat out Friday's game, while defenseman Victor Hedman exited early due to a lower-body issue.
The Capitals also are rolling with four straight victories, but that surge comes after an 0-3-2 slump that knocked Washington out of the postseason race.
The Caps still came to work on Friday versus the Chicago Blackhawks and notched a 4-0 victory, with Jaroslav Halak posting a 34-save shutout.
Halak picked up his fifth shutout of the season and first since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres. He has 30 shutouts in his career and snapped a personal five-game slide.
Alex Ovechkin added his league-leading 51st goal, Jay Beagle scored twice and Nicklas Backstrom lit the lamp for Washington.
"I told the guys when we found out it was over that part of their job as a professional is to play as hard as you can," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "Do it for yourselves, and do it for the people who paid to come watch you play. You owe them."
Ovechkin and Backstrom both added an assist and Ovechkin is on the verge of claiming his second straight Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy and fourth of his career as the league's leading goal scorer.
"It's pretty hard to be mentally ready for these types of games because you are out of the playoffs and the season is over in one more game, but we play for the fans," Ovechkin said. "They came to see us and they want to see the game and they want to see nice play."
Washington center Marcus Johansson sustained an upper-body injury in the second period on Friday and did not return.
The Capitals will try to sweep their three-game season series with the Lightning and beat the club for the sixth time in a row.
Washington has won six straight and 17 of the past 20 meetings at home against its former division rival.
Lightning forward Ryan Malone was not set to travel to Washington after getting arrested early Saturday morning on charges of possession of cocaine and driving under the influence.
Malone, who has not been in the lineup the past three games, has five goals and 10 assists in 57 games this season.
04/13 10:37:19 ET