The Washington Capitals will try to rebound from a big setback in their push for the playoffs when they visit the Boston Bruins for tonight's battle at TD Garden.
The Capitals entered Tuesday's home game against Buffalo locked in a tie with the Sabres for the eighth and final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference, but Washington was dealt an embarrassing 5-1 loss to fall two points behind in the race.
Washington and the Sabres, who are off today, each have five games left in the regular season. Three of the Capitals' five remaining tests will be on the road, where Washington is just 14-20-4 this season.
Boston, meanwhile, has been playing its best hockey in months recently, winning three straight and five of its last six tests. The Bruins, who are leading the Northeast by five points over Ottawa, can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight.
Washington has won two of three against the Bruins this year and will try to take the season series tonight in the final regular-season meeting between the clubs. The Caps have claimed three of five in this series overall and have won four of the last six in Boston.
The Capitals fell behind 3-0 to Buffalo by the early stages of the second period on Tuesday and were never able to recover. Drew Stafford tallied twice for the Sabres and Ryan Miller frustrated Washington by making 44 saves.
"It was one of those games where both teams came out and it wasn't a cat and mouse game," said Capitals head coach Dale Hunter. "It was wide open hockey game and we took the brunt of it."
Alexander Semin provided the lone offense for the Capitals, while Alex Ovechkin had his goal-scoring streak halted at five games
Braden Holtby was pulled after giving up three goals on 18 shots in less than 23 minutes. Michal Neuvirth finished by allowing a pair of scores on 13 shots.
The Capitals hope to have veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun back from a groin injury tonight. Washington's top netminder has sat out the last six games with the ailment, but he is questionable tonight. The Caps are just 2-2-2 during Vokoun's recent absence.
Although he is apparently close to returning from a concussion that has kept him sidelined since Jan. 3, Washington centerman Nicklas Backstrom will not play tonight. It was initially believed that Backstrom could return this evening, but he ruled out that possibility on Wednesday.
Boston has won three straight for the first time since a seven-game streak from Dec. 10-28 and the surge has helped push the Bruins closer to their second straight Northeast Division title. The B's have a game in hand to use over the idle Senators tonight.
The Bruins played Tuesday against Tampa Bay and the defending Stanley Cup champions used a three-goal third period to defeat the visiting Lightning, 5-2. Benoit Pouliot netted the game-winner when he snapped a 2-2 tie with 8:26 left in the third.
Shawn Thornton, Rich Peverley, Dennis Seidenberg and Brad Marchand scored and Zdeno Chara added three assists for the Bruins. Tim Thomas needed to make just 16 stops in the victory.
"I think we're playing with a lot of confidence, which is big," Marchand said. "We just need to stay in our system where everyone is forechecking and backchecking hard."
Boston is wrapping a brief two-game homestand tonight and is 23-13-2 as the host this season.