After struggling early in the season against the Washington Capitals, the Florida Panthers look to extend a three-game winning streak against them when the Southeast Division rivals continue their season series Tuesday night.
Florida (24-26-13) leads last-place Washington (24-29-10) by just three points in the Southeast, but is 4-1-2 after a three-game losing streak and 14-8-7 since Dec. 16.
"We wanted to make a point and show we can compete at a high level and be the type of team that can make the playoffs," said Panthers center Chris Gratton, who scored two goals in Saturday night's 7-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. "Unfortunately we have those tough starts, like in November, and it hurts us."
Ville Peltonen, Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, Olli Jokinen and Martin Gelinas also scored for the Panthers on Saturday, while Juraj Kolnik had three assists. The line combination of Weiss, Horton and Gelinas has combined for seven goals and 10 assists in the last four games.
"I think we're starting to click and it's showing on the ice," said Weiss, who also has three goals and six points in four games against Washington this season.
After losing the first two meetings in the eight-game series, Florida has outscored Washington 17-7 to win the last three, including a 4-1 win Jan. 20 at the Verizon Center. Gelinas has two goals in each of his last two games against the Capitals, and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has two goals and seven points against Washington on the season.
The Capitals, who have lost six of their last seven games overall, have fallen out of playoff contention after a competitive start to the season.
Washington dealt forward Richard Zednik to the New York Islanders on Monday for a 2007 second-round draft pick. Zednik had six goals and 12 assists for the Capitals, but missed 31 games with wrist and groin injuries.
Also on Monday, the Capitals sent defenseman Lawrence Nycholat to Ottawa for defenseman Andy Hedlund and a sixth-round draft pick. Hedlund, 28, has spent the season with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League.
Capitals general manager George McPhee said he first realized he would be a seller rather than a buyer when the team had several injuries during a busy part of the schedule from Christmas through New Year's Day.
"We lost all five games, and we never recovered," McPhee said. "It's really too bad. The team was having a nice season. We didn't have the depth to survive that."
Washington had a chance for a home-and-home weekend sweep of New Jersey, but lost 3-2 at home Sunday.
Alex Ovechkin was a bright spot for the Capitals, scoring his team-leading 35th goal - his first tally in six games.
"I got it in - finally," Ovechkin said.
Brooks Laich also scored for the Capitals to tie a career high with seven goals on the season. He had seven goals in 73 games in 2005-06.
|Apr 03 '07||FLA 0 at WSH 1||A. Ovechkin|
|Mar 30 '07||WSH 2 at FLA 3 - OT||M. Gelinas|
|Feb 27 '07||FLA 6 at WSH 5 - SO||J. Stumpel|
|Feb 01 '07||WSH 3 at FLA 6||J. Stumpel|
|Jan 20 '07||FLA 4 at WSH 1||J. Stumpel|
|Jan 13 '07||WSH 3 at FLA 7||R. Olesz|
|Nov 13 '06||WSH 4 at FLA 1||A. Ovechkin|
|Oct 18 '06||FLA 2 at WSH 5||J. Heward|