While wins are far more important right now for the New York Islanders than the Washington Capitals, the team that has already clinched the Presidents' Trophy has history on its mind.
The Islanders try to avoid a season sweep to the Capitals and clinch a playoff berth Tuesday night against nemesis Braden Holtby, who is one win away from matching the NHL single-season record.
With a playoff spot in danger of slipping away following a 1-4-1 stretch, the Islanders have responded with four wins in five games to solidify their grip on the first wild card in the Eastern Conference.
A 5-0 loss to red-hot Pittsburgh on Saturday stopped a three-game win streak, but New York rebounded with Monday's 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay. John Tavares had his 30th goal and two assists and Thomas Greiss made 32 saves to win his third consecutive start.
''We were embarrassed by it,'' Tavares said of Saturday's loss. ''We knew it was a big two points (tonight) and we played our type of game. ... We really liked the way we responded and now we got to carry it over tomorrow (at Washington). That's the really important test I think, test our character in a tough back-to-back against a team that's won the Presidents' Trophy already and we're still fighting hard here.''
The Islanders (43-26-9) remained two points behind the Rangers for third in the Metropolitan Division, and moved five points clear of ninth-place Boston. New York needs two points in its final four contests to reach the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
Monday's win improved the Islanders to 10-2-1 at home since the All-Star break, but they had lost six straight on the road before a 4-3 overtime victory at Carolina on March 26.
Mounting injuries are also becoming a concern for New York, which is already without No. 1 goaltender Jaroslav Halak, top-pairing defenseman Travis Hamonic and center Mikhail Grabovski. Defenseman Calvin de Haan left in the second period Monday after taking a shot off his right knee and didn't return.
Holtby has backstopped the Capitals (55-17-6) to their first Presidents' Trophy since 2010, and his 47 wins are one shy of Martin Brodeur's NHL record. Holtby figures to be back in net after he got a rare night off Saturday in Washington's 3-0 loss at Arizona.
''I find rest harder to play through,'' Holtby said. ''It's easy to tell your mind that your legs are sore, and you just have to push a little harder. It's a little harder when you're not seeing the puck well and you're trying to tell yourself to react quicker.''
There certainly haven't been any signs of fatigue from Holtby, who is 4-0-1 with a 1.18 goals-against average in his last five starts. He's lost just once at home in regulation since late October, going 22-1-1 with a 2.03 GAA.
Another matchup with the Islanders gives Holtby an excellent chance at equaling Brodeur's mark. He's 10-1-2 with a 2.08 GAA lifetime against them in the regular season.
Having already clinched home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, Washington will be focused on getting back on track after losing two of three since securing the Presidents' Trophy.
The Capitals haven't lost two straight in regulation this season, going 15-0-1 in games immediately following regulation defeats.
They have won all three meetings against the Islanders as part of an 8-1-2 regular-season run in the series.
Alex Ovechkin has four goals in the season series and 11 in the past 11 meetings, but could be without center Nicklas Backstrom for a third straight game due to an upper-body injury.