Preview: Capitals at Panthers
The Washington Capitals hope to move closer to clinching a fourth straight Metropolitan Division title and stretch their winning streak to five games when they visit the pesky Florida Panthers on Monday night. Captain Alex Ovechkin reached 50 goals for the eighth time in his career with a pair of tallies in Saturday’s 6-3 win at Tampa Bay as the Capitals remained three points up on the second-place New York Islanders with three games to go.
“We came to work, we knew we had to work,” Washington coach Todd Reirden told reporters after beating the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning on Saturday. “We knew we had to work away from the puck against them. They’re so dangerous on line rushes, they’re dangerous in the offensive zone, they’re where they’re at for a reason. We had to be on top of our game.” Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie also scored twice Saturday for the Capitals, who have had trouble against the offensively-gifted Panthers with three straight losses - two this season after regulation - and five in the past six meetings. Florida has been eliminated from playoff contention, but showed they are not packing up for the season after snapping Boston’s 12-game home winning streak with a 4-1 victory in Beantown Saturday. “These guys are fighting to the end. And it’s no surprise,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner told reporters. “. … There’s a lot of character in that room, and it’s nice to see them coming together.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TVA, NBCS Washington, FS Florida
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (47-24-8): Ovechkin (51 goals) joined Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy as the only players in NHL history to score 50 in eight different seasons while passing Brendan Shanahan (656) for 13th on the league’s all-time list with 658. “I’ve had a couple of chances in previous years to score 50, but I didn’t,” Ovechkin told reporters after Saturday’s win. “You always want to do something special, obviously, but sometimes it’s hard. I’m happy to get it done.” Defenseman John Carlson had a pair of assists Saturday push his total to a career-high 69 points.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (35-32-12): Left wing Jonathan Huberdeau has four goals in the past four games to tie his career high of 27 he set last season and boasts a career-best 88 points - three behind team leader Aleksander Barkov. Right wing Evgenii Dadonov continues to end the season on a hot streak with seven points in his past four contests and is one away from his career high of 29 goals that he posted in 2017-18. Defenseman Keith Yandle notched an assist Saturday to set a career high with 60 points, besting his total of 59 with the then-Phoenix Coyotes in 2010-11.
1. Florida C Vincent Trocheck is one goal from 100 for his career, but has been blanked the last four games.
2. Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov registered six assists in the last three games to reach 70 points (71) for the third time in his career.
3. Panthers G Roberto Luongo allowed three goals in his last two games and is 22-12-0 with a .923 save percentage all time against the Capitals.
PREDICTION: Capitals 4, Panthers 2