The Tampa Bay Lightning know they are embarking on a difficult road trip, starting with their first opponent.
The Lightning have split two meetings with the Washington Capitals this season heading into Saturday night's matchup that features superstars Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos.
Tampa Bay (19-8-3) avoided its first three-game slide Thursday with a 2-1 victory over Carolina. The result was much-needed ahead of this five-game trip.
"You want to go with a little momentum on the road," coach Jon Cooper said. "We feel like we've played pretty well. We've just got to keep munching points as we talk about. That's two we needed, now we've got to turn the page and go battle the Capitals again who (are) a really tough opponent for us."
Washington (13-10-5) won 5-3 at Tampa Bay on Tuesday behind Ovechkin's two goals and Braden Holtby's 33 saves. The Lightning took the other matchup 4-3 at home on Nov. 1, overcoming a 38-28 disadvantage in shots.
Ovechkin and Stamkos have met 30 times, with the Capitals winning the first seven matchups between two of the league's most exciting players. Ovechkin racked up 23 points to nine for Stamkos from 2008-10 when Washington went 10-2-0 against Tampa Bay.
Ovechkin has 19 points and Stamkos 15 in the 18 meetings since, with the Capitals going 11-5-2.
The Washington star may have an advantage since his line features Nicklas Backstrom, who is among the league leaders with 22 assists. Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson centers the second line behind Stamkos' unit and has a team-best 21 assists.
The Capitals are 15-1-2 in their last 18 home meetings versus the Lightning.
Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop earned his first win over Washington in the November matchup. He is 0-3-1 with a 4.39 goals-against average in the other five.
Bishop has started both 2014-15 meetings, though backup Evgeni Nabokov may be the better option Saturday. Nabokov, who made 29 saves Thursday, is 13-2-4 with a 2.22 GAA in 19 starts against the Capitals.
"Before we go on this long road trip you want to get these two points, you want to feel good about yourself and go into the hard road trip, it's not going to be easy," Nabokov said. "You're going to face some tough opponents out there and this was important."
Washington missed a chance at its first four-game win streak with Thursday's 3-2 overtime home defeat to lowly Columbus. The Capitals fell despite finishing with 41 shots - their second-highest total.
"I think our execution was good," winger Troy Brouwer said. "I thought we were able to create opportunities and get shots."
Defenseman Mike Green returned after missing seven games with an upper body injury.
"He was good," coach Barry Trotz said. "I did not mind Greenie's game at all. He was skating and never seemed to be in trouble all night."
Ovechkin, averaging a league-high 4.6 shots on goal, failed to score for the fifth time in six games. He has 14 goals - three fewer than Stamkos.
Holtby is 3-2-1 with a 3.83 GAA in seven starts against Tampa Bay. Stamkos had not scored in five games versus Holtby before tallying Tuesday.