The Washington Capitals still boast a gaudy record. Poor play at even strength appears to be catching up to them, however.
The Capitals look to avoid a third loss in four games and win their fourth in a row over the improving Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at Amalie Arena.
Washington (19-6-2) has scored one goal in each of its last two defeats, the most recent a flat 4-1 road loss at Florida on Thursday. The Capitals' goal, from Alex Ovechkin, came on a six-on-five late in the third period with Philipp Grubauer pulled for an extra attacker.
Washington has managed one five-on-five goal in the last three games.
"We're shooting a little bit of blanks in five-on-five," coach Barry Trotz told the team's official website. "I didn't think we had enough support on the puck. There is always a battle on the puck, and second-man races are very important for puck possession and I didn't think we did enough of that. Our execution wasn't really great.
" ... We just couldn't find the back of the net. We've got to generate a little bit more five-on-five."
The Capitals had four shots in the final period and failed to score on five power-play opportunities, which proved fatal when combined with their lack of production at even strength.
''We know how good we are and we can be better,'' said Ovechkin, who's scored in two straight games. ''Forget and move forward.''
Ovechkin has three goals and two assists during his club's three-game winning streak against Tampa Bay, during which Washington has outscored the Lightning 13-7. The Capitals are also 8-1-1 in the last 10 meetings.
Ovechkin opened the scoring on the power play in the first period of the most recent matchup, a 4-2 home victory Nov. 27. Braden Holtby made 32 saves and weathered a third-period onslaught in which Tampa Bay held a 20-6 shot advantage and scored twice.
Holtby, expected to return to the net Saturday, has given up two goals in each of his last five starts.
Tampa Bay (14-12-3) has been putting its sluggish start behind it, winning three of four and six of nine. The Lightning weren't at their best against visiting Ottawa on Thursday but still picked up a 4-1 victory.
''It wasn't a perfect work of art, but we got two points,'' coach Jon Cooper said. ''We'll take it.''
Nikita Kucherov had his second two-goal effort in three games, Ben Bishop made 30 saves and Tampa Bay scored three times in the third period.
The Lightning also continued to perform better on the penalty kill, holding their opponent to 0 for 3 for the second straight game. Tampa Bay had given up eight goals on 19 opportunities in the previous four.
"We have a really good penalty kill, so to be able to shut them down was good," Bishop told the team's website. "We've had some bad games, but we don't have a bad penalty kill. We just need to stay out of the box."
Especially against Washington, third in the league at 23.9 percent on the power play. The Capitals went 3 for 4 on Nov. 27.
Tampa Bay has been playing well despite star center Steven Stamkos going seven games without a goal. He has 11 goals in 29 games after scoring 11 in his first 17 last season, which he finished with 43 goals.
Some offensive help arrived Thursday, however, as Ondrej Palat returned after missing 12 games with an ankle injury. The forward was on the ice for both Kucherov goals.
"He's a huge part of our team," Kucherov said. "He brings more energy."