NHL

Lightning-Capitals Preview

Stars Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals haven't been their usual high-scoring selves lately, with Stamkos' drop in production particularly acute.

Their teams, though, have won most of their recent games, and the Capitals have added to their mastery of the Lightning during their successful stretch.

They'll try to secure another victory over Tampa Bay while continuing their home dominance in the series Friday night.

Stamkos hasn't tallied a goal in 10 games, his longest drought since his rookie season of 2008-09, but the Lightning (16-13-3) got plenty of scoring in a 5-4 overtime victory in Toronto on Tuesday. Vladislav Namestnikov finished off the team's fifth win in seven games and fourth in five road contests, while Nikita Kucherov scored his sixth goal in as many games.

"It's satisfying that we're getting the wins and guys are stepping up," said Stamkos, who has 11 goals and 11 assists - well off his 43-goal pace of last season. "Obviously, I do have high expectations and (my stats) are not where I want them to be."

Stamkos has one assist in two games this season against a Capitals team that's 10-1-1 in its last 12 and has won six straight at home.

A 2-1 victory at Tampa on Saturday started Washington (22-6-2) on its three-game win streak. The Capitals have allowed one goal in each of their past two, the most recent a 2-1 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday.

Washington has turned into one of the league's stingiest teams in its second season under defensive-minded coach Barry Trotz. Playing a big role in that has been Braden Holtby, 12-0-1 with a 1.67 goals-against average in his last 13 starts.

"He's an eraser," Trotz said. "Good goaltending erases a lot of mistakes. He's erased a lot of mistakes in the early part of the season for us.

"He's a workhorse. He's a focused athlete. I think his mental toughness is off the charts. I think everybody would agree in our room that he's the most valuable player for us so far this year."

Holtby's play and other contributions have taken some of the pressure off Ovechkin needing to dominate the stat sheet. He has just two of his team-best 14 goals and two assists in his last eight games, but Washington is 6-1-1 in that stretch.

Defenseman John Carlson has scored once in each of the past two games and has nine assists in his last 10. The Capitals also got an early goal from fourth-line forward Michael Latta on Wednesday.

"We're finding ways to win whether it's good goaltending, good penalty kill or good power play," Trotz said. "Right now, we're getting contributions from everyone."

Ovechkin scored in a 4-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Nov. 27, leaving the Capitals at 17-1-2 in the last 20 home matchups. They've taken both meetings this season and four straight in the series.

Holtby started all of those games and allowed a combined eight goals.

Lightning counterpart Ben Bishop is 1-5-1 with a 3.70 GAA in eight lifetime starts against Washington. Nicklas Backstrom has played a big role in inflating that goals-against with four goals and 12 assists in the last 11 matchups.

Ovechkin has three goals and three assists in his past five games in the series, while Stamkos has recorded one goal and seven assists in his last 10 against the Capitals.

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