The Florida Panthers are picking up points at every opportunity, but to stay in the playoff race, they'll need to keep winning.
The Panthers continue their push for a postseason berth when they host the lowly Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Florida (33-30-14) is 12th in the Eastern Conference with 80 points, six behind the teams tied for seventh place. The Panthers have five games remaining to try and jump ahead of a handful of clubs in the standings and secure their first postseason berth since 1999-2000.
Florida beat Southeast Division-leading Atlanta 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday night for its second straight victory and earned at least one point for the third consecutive game. While the Panthers have 14 losses after regulation, the most in the East, they have won two of their past three shootouts after starting the season 0-7 in the tiebreaker.
"If we'd won maybe half of those, we'd be in a different position right now," said Jozef Stumpel, who tied Wednesday's game in the third period and scored the winner in the shootout. "But this was our problem and hopefully we're going to solve it and get better and better at it."
Craig Anderson started in goal for the Panthers on Wednesday after Ed Belfour had made a franchise-record 27 straight starts, and stopped 33 shots before making another two saves in the shootout.
"I know the playoff hopes are on the line," Anderson said. "I had to put out a good effort and keep it close for the guys."
Florida, which has gone 8-2-2 at home since Jan. 27, is in the middle of a three-game homestand. After hosting Carolina on Sunday, the Panthers close out the season with a three-game road trip, beginning Tuesday against Washington (26-38-13).
Florida has won the last four meetings with Washington this season after the Capitals took the first two. Overall, the Panthers have won 12 of the last 15 matchups against the Capitals, who have already been eliminated from playoff contention and have only 65 points, the second-worst total in the conference.
Washington has lost four straight and 13 of its past 15 games, including a 4-3 defeat to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The Capitals led 2-0 early in the first period, but allowed the Penguins to get back into the game with multiple power plays. Three of Pittsburgh's goals came with the man advantage.
"We can't take lots of penalties against this team," Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin said. "It's our fault. We don't have to take penalties."
Washington has allowed seven goals on 17 power-play attempts during its four-game skid.
The Capitals have lost seven straight on the road and 20 of their last 22 games there after beginning the year 8-4-4 away from home.
Washington hasn't made the playoff since 2002-03 and is assured of finishing last in the Southeast for the third straight season.
"We have to play our system to play well," Ovechkin said. "We'll wait until next year and see what happens. This year, we gained some more experience and next year will be different."
|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|