The Washington Capitals came up short in both attempts to beat coach Barry Trotz's former team last season but would appear to have the upper hand this time against a Nashville Predators team clinging to a playoff spot.
The Capitals look to add to their league-leading point total with a fourth win in row Tuesday night in Nashville.
Washington lost 4-3 in each of its two matchups against Nashville in 2014-15 but was facing one of the NHL's top teams. The Capitals, meanwhile, were sixth in the Eastern Conference before a loss in Nashville on Jan. 16 and seventh before a home defeat March 28.
The roles are reversed this time with Washington (38-9-4) holding a four-point advantage over Chicago for the NHL's best record and Nashville (25-20-8) in control of the West's first wild card. The Capitals have boosted their hopes in the East and for the Presidents' Trophy by winning three straight 3-2 games, taking one in a shootout.
“I think one of the things we have to recognize is everybody has kicked their game to playoff mode. We're going to Nashville. They're going to be in playoff mode,” Trotz said. “Fortunately with our record, we have some separation, some money in the bank. At the same time, we can't take that for granted.”
Matt Niskanen scored the tiebreaking goal with 14:36 remaining against Philadelphia on Sunday. Alex Ovechkin tallied his 30th, joining Wayne Gretzky and former Capitals forward Mike Gartner as the only players to reach that mark in each of their first 11 seasons.
Ovechkin is making his first appearance in Nashville this season after missing the All-Star weekend to nurse a lower-body injury. Trotz was greeted warmly while coaching the Metropolitan Division team for the 3-on-3 tournament at Bridgestone Arena, and Predators fans gave him a standing ovation in his return to Nashville last season.
He coached that franchise through its first 15 seasons of existence and earned 557 wins while making seven playoff appearances.
Nashville ended a season-worst three-game home losing streak Saturday with a 6-2 rout of San Jose. Viktor Arvidsson had his first two-goal game as the Predators also avoided a third consecutive overall defeat.
“We did a good job like this but we're going to need efforts like this all year to be able to win games like this,” said forward Filip Forsberg, who had a goal and two assists.
Forsberg also had a goal and two assists at Washington last March. James Neal has nine goals and five assists in 14 career matchups with the Capitals, and Mattias Ekholm scored in each of last season's two meetings.
Ovechkin has eight goals and four assists in 11 lifetime games against Nashville and four in his last six overall, with two coming on the power play. The Capitals, however, are 0 for 17 with a man advantage in their past five contests but have killed eight of nine penalties in the last three.
Nashville has given up three power-play goals in its last two games after killing all 21 penalties over seven contests.
T.J. Oshie's 11 goals against the Predators while with St. Louis were his most against any opponent, and he also tallied nine assists. Nicklas Backstrom has two goals and nine assists in his past seven games against Nashville, but Washington has dropped three straight in the series.
The Capitals have also lost three in a row at Bridgestone.