The Washington Capitals, staring across the gulf between them and the playoffs, started swimming Sunday afternoon with a 5-3 win over the Hartford Whalers at USAir Arena.
The victory broke a two-game losing streak and put Washington (28-35-7, 63 points) just one point behind Hartford (27-33-10) and the Montreal Canadiens (25-32-14), who occupy the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
But the Capitals lost defenseman Phil Housley to a groin strain 2 minutes into the game. Washington has lost a player to injury in each of its past three wins.
Housley likely will miss two to three weeks.
In other games
Tony Amonte scored three goals for his fourth career hat trick as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the New York Islanders 5-4 in Chicago.
Adam Deadmarsh scored one goal on a power play and another with his team shorthanded as Colorado clinched the regular-season championship in the Pacific Division with a 4-2 victory over Detroit in Denver.
Darryl Sydor ignited a four-goal second period as the Dallas Stars continued its run of home success with a 6-2 victory over the shorthanded Pittsburgh Penquins.
Dallas improved to 10-1-1 at Reunion Arena since the all-star break and is 7-1-2 overall in its last 10 games.