The Boston Bruins still have plenty of work to do in their last three games despite a five-game winning streak that has them close to making the playoffs.
Next up is a road matchup with a Washington Capitals team that's clinched a postseason berth and has turned its focus to securing home-ice advantage in the first round.
The Bruins can earn yet another key victory Wednesday night, but that will mean recording a goal against Washington for the first time in three meetings this season.
Boston's surge has it in the mix for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division or a wild-card spot, as the club is currently in the second wild-card position. It has the same amount of points as Ottawa but owns the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker, and is a point behind Pittsburgh for the first wild card.
The Bruins, though, have played one fewer game than both of those teams and Detroit, which holds a two-point lead over Boston for the third spot in the Atlantic.
The Bruins (41-25-13) have been off since Saturday, when they defeated Toronto 2-1 in a shootout. Boston needed Patrice Bergeron's decisive goal in the tiebreaker after a season-high 50 shots weren't enough to win in regulation or overtime.
''Everyone is playing desperate hockey, good hockey, and it definitely keeps us on our toes,'' Bergeron said. ''You know it's in our heads. (Our opponents aren't) going to quit, and we knew that heading into the last stretch, but we're seeing it right now, so we have to keep going.''
The Bruins, who have allowed eight goals in the win streak, play their final three on the road, starting with this front end of a back-to-back that concludes against Florida. Boston has won its last two away from home.
''We're not going to give up many goals and that's what it takes to win hockey games right now,'' defenseman Torey Krug said. ''That's how the Boston Bruins win hockey games, by not giving up more than a couple of goals.''
Scoring any has been the problem against the Capitals (44-25-11), who took the first matchup 4-0 at Boston on Oct. 11 and the second 2-0 at home March 15. Braden Holtby started both as the Washington goaltender moved to 6-2-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average in eight career starts in the series.
He stopped 35 shots in a 2-1 victory at Detroit on Sunday that gave the Capitals an 8-2-1 mark in their last 11. The win, combined with the Senators' 3-2 shootout loss at Toronto later that night, put Washington in the playoffs.
The Capitals went 2-0-1 on their final road trip of the season, which was played over four nights.
" ... We still have to take home (ice) advantage, win a couple games, and feel (more) comfortable," forward Alex Ovechkin said.
Washington is fighting it out with the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh for the second spot in the Metropolitan. It holds a one-point lead on New York and a three-point cushion on the Penguins.
The Capitals realize that they'll be facing an opponent that will be more desperate than they are Wednesday.
" ... Boston needs the points to make the playoffs, so it's going to be an interesting game," said Ovechkin, who scored twice Oct. 11 for his fourth career multi-goal game against the Bruins.
Washington, 10-3-1 in its last 14 at home in the series, has won three of four overall at the Verizon Center.
Boston's Tuukka Rask has started each game of the win streak and is expected to play in his 68th game of the season Wednesday, which would be the most by a Bruins goalie since Byron Dafoe played in that number in 1998-99.