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Lightning pregame: Tampa Bay meets Capitals for first time this season

Tampa Bay will play Washington three times in a seven-game stretch.
The Lightning haven't faced off against the Washington Capitals and goaltender Braden Holtby since the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
The Lightning haven't faced off against the Washington Capitals and goaltender Braden Holtby since the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Mar. 16, 2019

TAMPA – Heading into the first Lightning-Capitals matchup of the season, Steven Stamkos distinctly remembers the emotions emanating from the team’s seven-game Eastern Conference loss against Washington, a series that saw the Lightning drop a 3-2 lead over the Capitals in Games 6 and 7.

“But it’s in the past now,” Stamkos said. “We can’t do anything about it. We’ve obviously turned the page here in this organization and we’ve had a tremendous year to date. We’re just looking to finish strong and hopefully learn from some of those lessons that we learned in the playoffs.”

The Lightning will face off against the Capitals for the first time this season, one of three Washington matchups in its next seven games. A win against the Capitals and a Boston Bruins regulation loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets could give Tampa Bay the No. 1 spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

Washington comes to Amalie Arena with a 9-1-0 record in its last 10 games, the sole loss coming in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh. Although the Caps trail the Lightning by 20 points, they appear to be peaking.

“These guys are playing very well as of late,” Stamkos said. “We’re kind of happy we get the chance to play them three times down the stretch.”

The Capitals are the only team in the league that the Lightning has yet to face so far this season. Stamkos expects them to be competitive, and Washington’s T.J. Oshie agrees.

“It looks like they’re all bought in,” Oshie said of Tampa Bay. “That’s always a tougher task when a full team is playing the right way then when you just go up against a couple of really good guys that are hot, and Tampa seems to have both right now.”

Oshie also thinks tonight’s matchup will be a good test for the Capitals, and he expects both teams to contribute to the playoff-like atmosphere that’s most likely to happen over the next three Capitals-Lightning matchups.

But the atmosphere isn’t distracting Stamkos from the ultimate goal.

“We just want to win,” said Stamkos, who will set the franchise records for goals with his next score. “We want to continue to get our game on track to be consistent come playoff time.”

The lineup

Neither Dan Girardi nor Anton Strålman participated in Saturday’s morning skate. Coach Jon Cooper did not have an update on either of the defensemen.

Andrei Vasilevskiy was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, presuming he will start in goal against Washington’s Braden Holtby.

The presumed scratches tonight remain at Danick Martel, Ryan Callahan, Girardi and Strålman.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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