They faced the Capitals on Thursday night for the third time this season with Ovechkin not playing, and they lost once again -- thanks in part to a four-point performance from Alexander Semin in his return to the lineup, sparking Washington to a 6-2 win at Verizon Center.
With Ovechkin sitting out the first of a two-game suspension, Semin came back after missing seven games with a wrist injury to score twice and add a pair of assists. The Capitals got power-play goals from Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Brendan Morrison, a shorthanded tally by Matt Bradley and Tomas Fleischmann goal in cruising past the struggling Panthers.
"I think it shows we've got some depth," said Morrison, who added two assists for a three-point night. "Obviously, Ovi isn't in the lineup tonight, so it's a chance for other guys to step up and contribute. We got that tonight from several guys."
Semyon Varlamov carried a shutout into the final four minutes of the third period before Stephen Weiss and Bryan Allen scored 43 seconds apart to put a little dent into the huge Caps' lead.
Ovechkin, who was out of the lineup with an upper-body injury when the Capitals swept a home-and-home from the Panthers in November, was docked two games for a knee-on-knee hit against the Hurricanes' Tim Gleason on Monday.
Florida was coming off a home win against Colorado on Wednesday that snapped a five-game losing streak, and the Capitals were able to jump on the Panthers early.
"I like the way we followed the game plan in the beginning," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We thought they'd be tired and if we attacked them early and got them down, they might not have the strength to come back."
Semin opened the scoring with 9:26 left in the first period, freezing Scott Clemmensen with a stutter-step in the right circle before snapping a shot past the goalie for his 10th of the season.
"(Semin) didn't miss a beat at all," Morrison said. "He got us going with an early goal, a beautiful goal -- a toe drag and a great shot. Not too many guys can do that. It got us going on the bench."
Fleischmann, a key scorer in Ovechkin's absence, scored 1:16 later, giving the Capitals a 2-0 lead and sending Clemmensen to the bench in favor of Alexander Salak, who played in his second NHL game.
Special-teams goals by Bradley at 2:45 of the second and Backstrom at 5:13 doubled Washington's lead, and things really came apart from Florida in the third when Mike Duco received two minutes for instigating and five minutes for fighting, giving the Caps a lengthy power play.
An elbowing minor to Allen 50 seconds later created the two-man advantage on which Morrison scored at 3:19. The five-minute major continued and Semin made it 6-0 at 6:32.
"We just go out and play as a team, that's the key word," Semin said through a translator. "Of course, it's bad that (Ovechkin) didn't play tonight, but what can you do? It was my first game after an injury and it's always difficult to play your first game after an injury. The team helped me a lot to get back to my game."
Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe bemoaned his team's lack of discipline.
"When you are in the box for 30 minutes, you are not going to win many games," McCabe said. "With a power play like that, even without Ovechkin, they're still clicking around pretty good."
Sabres 6, Canadiens 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Montreal is getting set for Friday night's celebration of the 100th anniversary of its founding. Buffalo's only concern on Thursday was regaining the Northeast Division lead.
Six Sabres scored goals and Ryan Miller finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens were throttled at HSBC Arena and sent reeling into their centennial celebration against the Bruins with a fourth consecutive loss.
Clarke MacArthur, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy lit the lamp in the first period to give Buffalo all the offense it would need.
"We wanted to come strong, which we did," Pominville said. "We're playing five games in a row here at home and we want to establish that we're a good home team, a team that's hard to play at home. We didn't really give them any opportunities until the third."
Tim Kennedy extended the Sabres' lead to 4-0 early in the second before the Canadiens staged a rally on a Scott Gomez goal with 3:10 left in the middle period and Josh Gorges' shot that beat Miller 11:27 into the third. Buffalo got those goals back, however, as Andrej Sekera and Mike Grier completed the scoring.
"I think we did a great job with the puck," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "The one thing we talked about as a team was preparation. I think they did their job. They came to play and came to play hard."
While Miller had a relatively easy night, his counterpart faced a much heavier workload. Jaroslav Halak faced 37 shots, giving up six goals. While he was critical of his own performance, his coach absolved him of a lot of the blame.
"We knew the type of game they would play, come out hard the first 10 minutes. We did not respond," said Halak, who hadn't played in more than three weeks. "Obviously, I did not feel my best out there, and it shows with the rebounds."
"He didn't have any help," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "Most of the goals that were scored were second and third chances. You've got to win battles. We lost too many battles. They beat us to the puck. They were more determined than us."
Buffalo is off until welcoming in the New York Rangers on Saturday, while Montreal limps home with the hopes Friday's festivities and a raucous crowd can help turn things around.
"It's the 100-year anniversary, we'll try not to let our fans down," center Maxim Lapierre said. "We have to win that game and give our best performance."
Maple Leafs 6, Blue Jackets 3 | HIGHLIGHTS
Toronto continued its best stretch of the season behind two goals apiece from Phil Kessel and Jason Blake. Lee Stempniak and Nikolai Kulemin also scored as the Maple Leafs doubled up the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena and made it seven out of eight games with at least one point (5-1-2). They're now only three points behind the Canadiens for fourth in the Northeast Division.
"We are feeling a lot better about ourselves right now," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.
The opposite could be said for Columbus, which has dropped seven of eight and saw second-year goalie Steve Mason pulled once again. Kristian Huselius, Jason Chimera and Jan Hejda had the Jackets' goals.
"We didn't do a good job of managing the puck," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Tonight it was just careless."
Kessel, who has 10 goals in 15 games since returning from offseason rotator cuff surgery to join the Leafs, opened the scoring at 4:32 of the first when a no-look pass from Alexei Ponikarovsky found him skating across the slot. Mason tried to poke-check the puck off his stick, but Kessel pulled it back and slipped it past the goalie and into the net.
Stempniak made it 2-0 with 8:50 left with the period, intercepting a Fedor Tyutin pass and putting a backhander by a surprised Mason.
Huselius provided the Jackets with a little momentum with a power-play goal 4:48 into the second, but the Leafs broke the game open with a three-goal burst in a span of under seven minutes. Blake and Kessel scored to chase Mason, then Kulemin made it 5-1 with a shorthanded goal against Mathieu Garon with 7:18 to play in the period.
"We're just doing the things that we should do," said Blake, who scored again in the third to double his goal output for the season. "We use our speed and forecheck and make it tough on defensemen. If we don't do that, we're easy to play against. The last few games, we've been doing that. We've been getting rewarded. We've just got to keep doing it."
The beneficiary of all the offense was Joey MacDonald, who picked up his first victory in a Toronto jersey, finishing with 33 saves.
"They had a few odd-man rushes. You have to come up with those saves," MacDonald said. "That's what my job is, to make the big save at the right time. Tonight we put the puck into the net. When you score five or six goals, you should win hockey games.
Oilers 4, Red Wings 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
The bounces haven't been going Edmonton's way all that often lately, but they certainly did against the Wings -- and the Oilers were all too happy for their good fortunes. Lubomir Visnovsky and Patrick O'Sullivan scored goals that deflected off Detroit players and into the net, and goalie Jeff Deslauriers made 27 saves to win at Joe Louis Arena.
"Lucky bounces for us," said Deslauriers, who was pulled from his previous start against Vancouver, a 7-3 loss on Saturday. "We haven't had too many lucky bounces this year. We'll take it."
O'Sullivan had a pair of goals in the game and Robert Nilsson also scored for the Oilers. They jumped in front 5:50 into the first when Wings defenseman Brett Lebda batted a puck out of the air and into his own net, with Visnovsky receiving credit for the goal as the last Oiler to touch the puck.
Nilsson doubled the lead with 2:51 left in the period on a much prettier play, slipping the puck between the legs of defender Jonathan Ericsson at the bottom of the left circle, retrieving it and skating in on Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, beating him on the forehand.
"When he gets in that spot, he's got the skill. That's not the question," Edmonton coach Pat Quinn said. "The thing is getting to that spot."
Dan Cleary beat the buzzer on a one-timer with less than a second to play, sending Detroit into the intermission down by just one, but O'Sullivan scored goals less than three minutes apart in the second. On the first one he was trying to pass, but Pavel Datsyuk deflected the puck in the high slot and it trickled past Howard at the 8:50 mark. At 11:47, O'Sullivan moved into the slot from the high circle and had an open net to shoot at after collecting a Sheldon Souray feed.
"The first one was a lucky bounce," O'Sullivan said. "The second one, it's not a lot at this level where you have that much time. Jimmy came out of the net real far and I was able to take advantage of it."
Howard finished with 32 saves -- and not a lot of support from the rest of his teammates on the ice.
"I didn't think we were any good," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I saw continuous turnovers, guys getting beat up the ice. We weren't good. They were better than us from start to finish."
Stars 3, Ducks 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
It was less about the start than the finish for Dallas on Thursday.
Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere had the Stars blanked for the first two periods, silencing most of the fans at the American Airlines Center, but James Neal and Steve Ott scored 71 seconds apart early in the third, rallying them to victory.
"When you start getting frustrated, that's when you screw up your play," Neal said. "You've got to stay positive and things will work their way out."
Marty Turco made 26 saves and Brenden Morrow added an empty-net goal for Dallas, which is 15-5-2 against Anaheim on home ice since 2002.
Saku Koivu staked the Ducks to a lead 1:26 into the game and Giguere made that stand up for 40 minutes despite facing 30 shots.
"The fear is when you're pressing for a goal, you try to do things individually and take some chances," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "But the guys showed good discipline and got some fortunate bounces after getting pucks to the net."
Neal's tying goal 1:50 into the third deflected off the skate of Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski, then Ott put a puck on net that Giguere appeared to stop -- except it trickled between his legs and over the goal line and the Stars suddenly had the lead.
"We put in a pretty solid effort all night," Ott said. "But two fluky ones go in and all of a sudden the tables are turned and we pull out a pretty solid victory."
Corey Perry had an opportunity to tie the game later in the third but hit the post. The Anaheim forward had his franchise-record, 19-game points streak snapped.
"We got some bad breaks," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "But you have to earn your breaks, too. I didn't think we earned enough earlier on in the hockey game."
Coyotes 2, Flames 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Calgary hadn't lost in regulation away from home since mid-October. Ilya Bryzgalov helped Phoenix cool off the road warriors. Bryzgalov made 28 saves and Taylor Pyatt scored with 3:29 left in the third period as the Coyotes won their third in a row.
"It's definitely a big win for us against that team," Pyatt said. "That's been one of the best road teams in the League."
David Moss had given the Flames a 1-0 lead with one second remaining in the first period. Petr Prucha tied the score midway through the second for the Coyotes.
"We didn't play well enough," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "Our work ethic was fine, but we didn't work smart and made too many mistakes."
Miikka Kiprusoff turned aside 29 shots for Calgary, 8-0-2 on the road since a 2-1 loss on Oct. 13 in Columbus. But he couldn't stop Pyatt, who beat him with a wrist shot after taking a Daniel Winnik pass and skating down the right side.
"They came at us and threw a lot at the net," Flames center Craig Conroy said. "You're upset to waste an effort like that from him. Three minutes to go, you've got to get points."
Moss beat not only Bryzgalov but the buzzer in the first, capitalizing on a puck that bounced high off the goalie's pads and scoring into the open right side of the net.
Prucha made it 1-1 with a shot that bounced in off Kiprusoff's left shoulder 9:40 into the second.
"The first two or three minutes it seemed like it took us a few minutes to get up to speed or recognize the speed that they were going to play," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We figured out that we'd better play at that speed, too, or we were going to be in trouble."
Kings 6, Senators 3 | HIGHLIGHTS
After letting a two-goal lead slip away, Drew Doughty and Los Angeles got down to business and made sure not to let a victory at the Staples Center get away.
Doughty's power-play goal with 5:49 left in the second period put the Kings in front to stay and Justin Williams scored twice late in the third to secure the team's fourth win in five games.
"It's two points, and that's what it's all about," coach Terry Murray said. "You've got to find a way to get it done some nights -- whenever it gets to be 3-3, you've got to keep playing and play the right way. … But at the end of the day it's a win, and that's obviously the most important part of it."
Kings defenseman Randy Jones started the scoring just 42 seconds into the game, Wayne Simmonds converted a penalty shot later in the first period and Brad Richardson's second goal in as many games made it 3-1 less than four minutes into the second.
But Jonathan Cheechoo scored at 7:51 to draw Ottawa closer and Mike Fisher, who had scored a power-play goal back in the first, got his second of the game at 11:32 to tie the game.
Doughty took advantage of an interference penalty to Chris Phillips and beat Brian Elliott with a slap shot on the ensuing power play.
"I thought we played a pretty good game. We struggled at moments but we kept going," Doughty said. "We knew it was a big time -- we didn't capitalize on that 5-on-3 (bridging the first and second periods), so we were pretty disappointed. Stollie (Jarret Stoll) had a big draw, Kopie (Anze Kopitar) made a nice pass, and all I had to do was shoot it."
Williams took advantage of Matt Carkner's turnover and beat Elliott with 2:23 left in the third, then cleaned up on a Davis Drewiske rebound with 10 seconds remaining to cap the scoring. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick finished with 27 saves.
''I thought we sustained the momentum after we tied it, but Brian needs to be better," Senators coach Cory Clouston said of Elliott, who's the starter while Pascal Leclaire recovers from a broken jaw. "We needed a couple of saves, and to me, that was the difference. Brian's fighting the puck right now. He's having some adversity, or whatever you want to call it, but he's got to find a way to battle through it."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.