SEASON SERIES: Washington 3-1-1; Tampa Bay 2-3-0
IMPLICATIONS: Tampa Bay would move back into first with either a regulation win or OT/shootout victory over their division foes. The Lightning have the edge in the first tiebreaker, games played. There's a rundown of the full tie-breaking rules at the bottom of our playoff tracker.
BREAKDOWN: These teams enter three-game streaks going in opposite directions. Tampa, which held sole possession of the division lead for more than two months, allowed Washington to take the Southeast lead with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
This sixth and final meeting was expected to be spirited ---even before Caps coach Bruce Boudreau’s comments made the rounds on Monday. “(Steven) Stamkos, dives every two seconds,” Boudreau said in comment picked up by The Washington Post. “You start to get a hatred on for guys like that. So, it will be interesting."
Gamesmanship for sure and Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher refused to respond, other than to say he had "more respect for the players to say their players or our players are divers." We’ll see how smart it was to go after Stamkos, who hasn’t had a point in four games. (He still enters with a league-leading 41 goals.)
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Caps LW Alexander Semin vs. Lightning RW Stamkos (above). Stamkos is expected to play the wing opposite pf Martin St. Louis on a line centered by Dominic Moore, according to Damian Cristodero of The St. Petersburg Times. Stamkos has only one goal over the previous 11 games, just as Semin -- the first Caps player with four hat tricks in a season since Peter Bondra (1995-96) -- has contributed more than just head-scratching penalties. Semin scored the game-winner in OT on Sunday and has 21 goals lifetime against Tampa Bay.
KEY STAT: 8-10. The Caps’ less-than-stellar record in games that go past regulation.
Photo: Getty Images