Sliding Caps host showdown with Pens

( - The Washington Capitals hope to avoid their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Wednesday's Metropolitan Division battle at Verizon Center.

The Capitals have dropped four in a row (0-3-1) and were handed a 4-3 regulation loss in Columbus on Tuesday night. Washington's longest skid of 2014-15 came during an 0-4-1 stretch from Oct. 26-Nov. 2.

Despite its current funk, the Capitals are currently tied with Boston for the Eastern Conference's two wild card spots and the clubs are seven points in front of Florida for that distinction.

Washington also sits one point in back of the New York Rangers for third place in the Metro and is five behind second-place Pittsburgh. The Penguins entered the All-Star break on a four-game skid of their own but halted the slide with Tuesday's 5-3 home win over Winnipeg.

The Capitals lost their fourth straight road game on Tuesday, but hope to get back on track at home, where they own a 12-5-5 mark this season.

After a scoreless first period Tuesday in Columbus, Washington and the Blue Jackets combined for five goals in the second. However, Columbus grabbed a 2-0 lead in the stanza and never allowed the Capitals to even the score after that.

Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist in the loss, while Troy Brouwer and Andre Burakovsky also scored for the Capitals. Braden Holtby allowed all four goals on 30 shots.

"We just let them take the game to us in the second and third," said Burakovsky. "They took advantage of it so that's something we have to work on."

It's unclear if Holtby will start again tonight or if Justin Peters will give Washington's workhorse goaltender a rare breather. Holtby, who has started 40 games for the Caps this season, doesn't have good career numbers against the Penguins, going 1-4-0 with a 3.40 goals against average in this matchup.

Peters is 2-4-2 with a 4.18 GAA in eight career outings versus Pittsburgh.

The Penguins picked up their first win since Jan. 13 last night, and did so without the help of either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

Patric Hornqvist did return to the lineup for Pittsburgh and scored the game- winning goal during the third period to help the Pens record the 5-3 win over the Jets.

Hornqvist, who missed 11 games due to a lower-body injury, finished with two goals.

Kris Letang also came back for Pittsburgh after sitting out the final game prior to the All-Star break with a concussion and tallied a career-high five assists. He became the second Penguins defenseman to record at least five helpers in a game. Ron Stackhouse tallied six on March 8, 1975

"We know we don't have the skill that we usually carry with 'Sid' and 'Geno,' but guys played a strong game, a smart game," Letang said. "We held the puck behind their D. That's what we tried to exploit and we didn't take any risky chances."

David Perron had a goal and an assist and Steve Downie and Nick Spaling also scored for the Penguins, who are three points behind the New York Islanders for first place in the division.

Backup netminder Thomas Greiss made 19 saves in Tuesday's win. Marc-Andre Fleury will start in net tonight for the Pens. He boasts a 16-8-2 record and 2.44 GAA in 27 career outings against Washington.

Crosby and Malkin are expected to be game-time decisions for the Penguins tonight with lower-body injuries. Both players skipped All-Star weekend to rest their ailments.

In other news, after Tuesday's game the Penguins announced they had swapped veteran centers with St. Louis, sending Marcel Goc to the Blues in exchange for Maxim Lapierre.

Lapierre has two goals and seven assists in 45 games this season. Goc has two goals and four assists in 43 games.

Tonight's test marks the second of four regular-season meetings between the Caps and Pens in 2014-15. Washington posted a 3-0 road win on Dec. 27 to halt an eight-game slide in this series. It was Washington's first win over the Penguins since a 1-0 home victory on Jan. 11, 2012, but the Caps enter tonight having lost three in a row to Pittsburgh in D.C.