The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to remain the hottest team in the NHL when they shoot for a 10th straight win Tuesday against the visiting Washington Capitals.
Pittsburgh has been perfect so far in March, going 9-0 to record the club's longest winning streak since an 11-game run from Feb. 21-March 17 of last season.
Thanks in large part to the current hot streak, the Penguins have opened a 12- point lead over the New Jersey atop the Atlantic Division and also are two points ahead of Montreal for the top seed in the East.
Pittsburgh's most recent triumph came Sunday in a home decision over the Boston Bruins, who had won five of six heading into the showdown. The Penguins won 2-1 and Joe Vitale's goal with 32 seconds left in the first period stood up as the game-winner.
Tomas Vokoun stopped 31 shots for Pittsburgh and captain Sidney Crosby added the other goal to bring his NHL-leading point total to 48 (13 goals, 35 assists).
"It's been different guys who have stepped up every game," Crosby said of the win streak. "Seeing 'Joey V' get a big one for us before the end of the first period and then 'Voky' playing the way he did today, it seems like it's always different guys. That's what you need in order to have success consistently."
Pittsburgh did get some unwanted news Sunday as defenseman Kris Letang left after the first period with a lower body injury and did not return. Letang leads all NHL defensemen with 28 points this season and his status for this game is unknown as Monday was an off day for the club.
The Pens have played their last five games without star center Evgeni Malkin, but last season's Hart Trophy winner has been skating and is day-to-day.
Pittsburgh has won seven straight on home ice since a 6-5 loss to Philadelphia on Feb. 20. The Pens, who are closing a three-game homestand Tuesday, are 10-4-0 in the Steel City this season.
While Pittsburgh has vaulted to the top of the East, Washington is still seven points out of a playoff spot. However, the Capitals have won two of their last three games, including a 5-3 decision in Sunday's home test against Buffalo.
Jason Chimera and Marcus Johansson scored 43 seconds apart in the second period to help Washington earn the recent win over the Sabres. Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer and Mathieu Perreault also scored for the Capitals and Braden Holtby made 27 saves for the win.
"It's a big, big win for us tonight," Chimera said. "Guys have a good feeling now and just hopefully we'll keep it going."
Tuesday's tilt kicks off an important four-game road trip for Washington, which is just 4-8-1 as the visiting team this season. After this test in Pittsburgh, the Caps will play two straight in Winnipeg before closing the swing Sunday against the New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh has won its last two home games against the Capitals after Washington had taken the previous eight encounters in the Steel City. The Pens have won both matchups in 2013, giving them victories in three straight and four of the last five meetings.