Preview: Panthers at Capitals
The Washington Capitals are finding ways to win games again, and look to continue their climb back into a comfortable playoff position when they host the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. The Capitals gave up the final two goals of regulation before knocking off Colorado 4-3 in overtime Thursday for their third win in four contests after a baffling seven-game losing streak in which they gave up a whopping 36 goals.
“There was more than one (thing) tonight that didn’t go our way,” Washington coach Todd Reirden told reporters after Thursday’s triumph. “But we stayed with our game plan. Frustration was at a very low level on our bench. And that’s what top teams do, is you find ways to get points when things aren’t going our way.” The Capitals must turn things around in the series after dropping four of the last five games against the Panthers, including a 6-5 shootout setback Oct. 19 in Washington. Florida still has a way to go to get back into the wild-card chase, but it has won five of the last seven games after getting a goal from defenseman Mike Matheson in overtime to beat Pittsburgh 3-2 on Thursday. “Even when they got that last goal (to tie in the third period), we turned it up and played in their end and didn’t get rattled,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner told reporters after the win. “We had a bunch of guys grinding it out tonight.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Florida, NBCS Washington
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (22-22-8): Right wing Evgenii Dadonov snapped an eight-game goal drought with a power-play tally Thursday and is one goal from reaching 20 for the second straight season. “He’s snake-bitten and getting upset and frustrated by it,” Boughner told reporters. “I’ve had lots of talks with him. He’s working hard and he finally got paid off (Thursday), which is nice to see.” Captain Aleksander Barkov boasts eight (two goals, six assists) of his team-leading 52 points in the last five games and is one ahead fellow forward Jonathan Huberdeau while left wing Mike Hoffman tops the team with 24 goals.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (30-18-6): Center Evgeny Kuznetsov is beginning to find his scoring touch again after recording two goals, including the winner, Thursday and accumulating 10 points the past six contests. “His speed seems re-energized, refocused, and he’s been a major factor in these games,” Reirden told reporters of Kuznetsov (48 points). “When he’s playing like that, he’s huge asset to our team. You see the success we can have.” Captain Alex Ovechkin (team-high 60 points) leads the league with 37 goals - four in his past five games - while fellow forward T.J. Oshie has 10 points in the past seven contests.
1. Florida’s Roberto Luongo (1,028) will tie Patrick Roy for the second-most games among goalies in NHL history with his next appearance. Martin Brodeur played 1,266 contests.
2. Washington recalled D Christian Djoos (lower body) from his conditioning stint and he could play his first game since Dec. 11 as soon as Saturday.
3. Florida F Jayce Hawryluk (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Friday while D Bogdan Kiselevich was recalled.
PREDICTION: Capitals 4, Panthers 2