The Washington Capitals had a nine-game winning streak snapped their last time out, but they remain in excellent position to grab one of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.
The New Jersey Devils' failure to get two points in their latest game could be far more costly.
With little margin for error as they continue their stunning playoff push, the Devils try to bounce back from a disheartening defeat and hand the visiting Capitals rare consecutive losses Friday night.
New Jersey (33-33-4) has the most points in the East (35) since the beginning of February, and with 29 points Washington (41-21-10) is close behind during that stretch.
But while the Capitals are hardly in desperation mode with a four-point cushion atop the Southeast Division, the Devils know one loss may be the difference between making and missing the postseason.
Twenty-seven points out of the playoff picture on Jan. 8, New Jersey had a chance to pull into a three-way tie for 10th Thursday, which would have put it four points behind No. 8 Buffalo and two in back of ninth-place Carolina. But the Devils couldn't come through, falling 3-1 at Ottawa -- their second loss to the East-worst Senators in the past 10 days.
"Every point is so important," center Dainius Zubrus said. "Every night is a must win for us and now we've lost two to them."
The Capitals have shown a similar sense of urgency the past three weeks after a mostly uneven regular season. Washington had outscored its opponents 27-14 in winning nine straight before Wednesday's visit to Detroit.
The Central-leading Red Wings stopped the Caps' streak short of double digits, though. Henrik Zetterberg slipped a power-play goal past Michal Neuvirth from an odd angle midway through the third period to give Detroit a 3-2 win.
"We have been getting the breaks in this situation in the last couple weeks," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Tonight we didn't get a lot of the breaks and they played well enough to win."
Washington is two points behind East-leading Philadelphia heading into Friday, and although the Flyers have two games in hand, Boudreau's team should have a chance to pile up more points down the stretch. Seven of the Capitals' final 10 games are against teams currently out of the postseason picture.
Nine of New Jersey's final 12 opponents, meanwhile, are current playoff teams.
Washington has won two of three against the Devils this season, scoring five goals on Martin Brodeur in each victory.
The NHL's all-time wins leader is the one who's kept New Jersey afloat the past six weeks, however. He hasn't allowed more than three goals since Dec. 23 and hasn't surrendered more than two since Jan. 26.
Johan Hedberg made 30 saves in New Jersey's 5-0 home win against the Caps on Nov. 22.
Washington has found a somewhat unlikely source of offense in their two victories. Defenseman John Carlson has five points against the Devils, including two of his six goals this season.
Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, scored twice in a 7-2 rout at the Verizon Center on Oct. 9. He has six goals and 10 assists and is a plus-12 in his last eight games versus New Jersey.
The Capitals have won seven straight road games against Eastern opponents.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every NHL game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.