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Capitals complete home-and-home with Panthers

by Brian Hunter /

PANTHERS (5-8-1) at CAPITALS (9-3-4)

Last 10 -- Florida 4-5-1; Washington 7-1-2

Season series --
This is the second of six meetings between Southeast Division rivals and the completion of a home-and-home series that began Friday night in Sunrise, Fla., with a 4-1 Washington victory.

Big story --
No Alex Ovechkin was no problem for the Capitals, at least not in their initial matchup with the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center. Brendan Morrison scored a pair of goals and Tyler Sloan lit the lamp for the second game in a row. Having already taken the road portion of this back-to-back, they will go for the sweep at the Verizon Center, where they've surprisingly won just half of their games this season (4-1-3).

Team Scope:

Panthers --
Nathan Horton's power-play goal in the third period Friday brought Florida to within 3-1 and the Panthers immediately got an opportunity to draw closer and perhaps even tie when Washington defenseman Shaone Morrisonn received a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct. They came up empty, with only one shot, but coach Peter DeBoer said the game had been lost long before that sequence.

"They won every loose puck battle all game," DeBoer said. "The five-minute power play? We might be able to convince ourselves that was the difference in the game, but that wasn't the difference in the game. There wasn't a loose puck tonight that was up for grabs that we won. When you don't do that, you're not going to win many games.
"They were hungrier in the tough areas tonight than we were. There's no excuse for that."

Capitals -- Coming off a 3-2 loss in New Jersey on Wednesday, its first full game this season without Ovechkin and one in which the young Semyon Varlamov started, Washington turned back to veteran Jose Theodore on Friday and he stopped 28 shots in improving to 3-0-3 in his last six starts.

"Especially in the first five minutes of the game, when they had some tremendous chances and they came out on us, Jose did a great job holding the fort until we were able to get a couple goals," coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Who's hot -- After being held off the scoresheet by Carolina on Wednesday, Horton's goal gives him eight points (two goals, six assists) in his last five games. Cory Stillman has two goals and five points in his last three games.

In addition to Sloan's goals in consecutive games, Brooks Laich has two goals and seven points in his last five games while Tomas Fleischmann has three goals and five points in five games since returning to the lineup from a blood clot.

Injury report --
Florida forwards Radek Dvorak (knee) and Dominic Moore (nasal surgery) won't play but are nearing their returns. David Booth is close to skating as he recovers from a concussion. Kamil Kreps missed Friday's game after taking a shot off his foot against Carolina.

Already without Ovechkin (upper-body injury), the Capitals lost a pair of defenseman Friday as Mike Green (upper body) and Jeff Schultz (lower body) both left early. Eric Fehr (ribs), John Erskine (hand) and Boyd Gordon (back) also remain out.

"Really good teams usually have to play with a lot of injuries, because their guys are willing to pay the price of winning," Boudreau said. "I just hope our price wasn't too high."

Stat pack --
Florida defenseman Bryan McCabe played in his 1,000th NHL game on Friday, becoming the 247th player in League history to reach the milestone. McCabe has 131 goals, 463 points, 1,623 penalty minutes and a plus-37 rating for the Islanders, Canucks, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs and Panthers in his 14-season career.

Puck drop --
Verizon Center fans won't have No. 8 to cheer on, but it's doubtful that will affect the decibel level in the building significantly -- that is, unless the Panthers can turn the tables and jump on the Capitals early.

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