The Washington Capitals haven't let a long road trip derail their postseason hopes. Visiting Florida on Saturday night, however, could make their quest a little tougher.
Making a strong run at moving into playoff position, the Capitals look to end their road struggles against the Panthers as the Southeast Division rivals continue their season series.
Washington (39-31-8), two points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, has won seven of its last eight and is 4-1-0 on a road trip that ends versus Florida (36-33-9).
"The sense of urgency is an amazing thing," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The season is on the line. We don't even know at this stage if we can afford one loss the way everybody else is winning."
With four games remaining, Washington also is in position to catch Southeast-leading Carolina. But the Capitals have had a tough time on the road against the Panthers, going 3-7-1 at BankAtlantic Center since the start of the 2005-06 season. The Panthers are 2-1-0 at home against the Capitals this season and 4-2-0 in the series overall.
This is the last road game of the regular season for Washington, which boosted its playoff hopes with a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Tomas Fleischmann scored with 2:33 left in overtime for the Capitals.
"We're in a dogfight here," said Washington center Brooks Laich, who also scored against the Lightning. "We're desperate, we're hungry. It's a great time to play right now."
Laich has a career-best 20 goals, but has been held off the scoresheet in each of his last four games against the Panthers. Fleischmann, meanwhile, tallied a point for the first time in 11 games to halt the longest drought of his career.
Entering Thursday's game, the Capitals' line of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov accounted for 20 of the team's 35 goals in March. That trio, however, did not register a point.
Ovechkin, who has an NHL-leading 61 goals, had two goals and two assists in two Washington wins versus Florida before the Capitals lost the teams' last meeting 4-2 at BankAtlantic Center on Feb. 15.
Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves in that game for the Panthers. He has allowed just two goals in each of his last two contests, but Florida lost both of those games.
The Panthers lost 3-2 to Atlanta on Thursday night, all but eliminating them from playoff contention. Florida is seven points out of eighth place with four games remaining.
The Panthers' two losses have come after an 8-0-1 stretch. They've been particularly bad with the man advantage, going 0-for-10 in the last two games. That includes a 5-on-3 for one minute early in the third period against the Thrashers.
"Maybe we have to keep things a little bit simpler," Florida captain Olli Jokinen said. "Sometimes the puck goes in, sometimes not. But we've still got to keep working and generate chances."
Killing off penalties, however, certainly hasn't been a problem for the Panthers. They have stopped their opponents' last 16 power-play chances.
Washington, meanwhile, is 1-for-15 with the man advantage in its last four games.
|Apr 05 '08||FLA 1 at WSH 3||S. Fedorov|
|Mar 29 '08||WSH 3 at FLA 0||V. Kozlov|
|Feb 15 '08||WSH 2 at FLA 4||K. Kreps|
|Jan 19 '08||FLA 3 at WSH 5||A. Semin|
|Dec 01 '07||WSH 2 at FLA 1||A. Ovechkin|
|Nov 28 '07||FLA 2 at WSH 1 - SO||S. Weiss|
|Nov 19 '07||FLA 4 at WSH 3||O. Jokinen|
|Nov 15 '07||WSH 1 at FLA 2||K. Kreps|