The Washington Capitals didn't need Michael Nylander to complete a season sweep of Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa, and they've done just fine without him at home against Edmonton for over a decade.
After an impressive win in their first game without Nylander, the Capitals look to extend a five-game home winning streak against the Oilers as the teams meet for the only time this season Thursday night.
A day after Nylander decided to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, Washington (19-21-5) beat Ottawa 4-2 on Tuesday night. Alex Ovechkin scored the tiebreaking goal on a third-period power play to seal the Capitals' fourth win this season against the Senators, whose 62 points are second-most in the NHL.
"It doesn't matter who we play. We have to win," Ovechkin said. "Two points is two points, whether it's against Ottawa or anyone. We want to go up (in the standings)."
Washington's win was even more impressive because it played without Nylander, who was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday to repair a torn left rotator cuff and will be sidelined for three to six months. The veteran center, who signed a four-year, $19.5 million contract with the Capitals as a free agent in July, had 11 goals and a team-high 26 assists in 40 games.
Nylander's 37 points were second only to Ovechkin, who has 34 goals and 21 assists. Capitals general manager George McPhee said Washington would not call up a player to take Nylander's roster spot. Instead, the Capitals will lean more heavily on center Boyd Gordon and winger Viktor Kozlov.
Washington could have used Nylander in last season's matchup with the Oilers, a 4-0 loss in Edmonton, but it has won five straight at home in this series since a 3-1 defeat on Jan. 26, 1997. This will be the teams' first meeting in Washington since Jan. 11, 2004, when the Capitals won 1-0.
Washington is playing the fourth game of a five-game stretch at home, where it is 8-4-1 since losing seven of its first nine. The Capitals are 4-2-0 overall in 2008, scoring four goals or more in four of those games.
Edmonton (21-22-4) had been playing strong defense, allowing a total of five goals during a four-game winning streak before losing 3-1 to Los Angeles at home on Tuesday night.
The Oilers failed to go over the .500 mark for the first time since their fourth game of the season.
"I'm not of the belief that it is something psychological, that it's some kind of burden we can't overcome," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "We can overcome it. It's not the way we wanted to go on the road, but we did a lot of things right on this homestand and we'll have to remember this lesson of why we lost the hockey game."
Dustin Penner had the lone goal in the finale of a five-game homestand for the Oilers. They will now begin a season-high five-game stretch on the road, where they are 9-10-3.
Penner, second on Edmonton with 13 goals, found the back of the net in last season's matchup with Washington in what was his first career game against the Capitals.