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Capitals-Panthers Preview @NHLdotcom

In the race for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau couldn't figure out why some of his players seemed to lack motivation their last time out.

Boudreau hopes his team comes out with a stronger effort Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers, who are looking to avoid dropping their fourth straight game.

The Capitals (43-22-6) had a chance to move into second in the East on Monday but suffered a 5-1 loss to Atlanta - their most lopsided defeat since a 6-2 setback to Florida (34-25-10) on March 1.

Washington - one point back of second-place New Jersey - had a season-high 50 shots on goal, but only Eric Fehr's found the back of the net with 1:15 remaining in the third period. The Capitals, who have a 13-point lead over second-place Carolina in the Southeast, are just 1-4-0 when recording 45 or more shots.

Despite all the scoring opportunities, Boudreau was unhappy with the performance.

"There were some effort issues," he said. "Until we start learning how to get dirty ... some guys are stuck on a certain amount of (personal) goals."

Alex Ovechkin, who needs one more goal to reach 50 for the third time in four seasons, had all 10 of his shots turned aside Monday as his 10-game point streak (seven goals, seven assists) ended.

The reigning MVP has not gone consecutive games without a point since Jan. 6 and 9, and the Capitals are 28-4-2 when he scores at least one goal.

Ovechkin had a goal with 22 seconds left in Washington's loss to the Panthers earlier this month and recorded a hat trick in a 4-2 win at Florida on Feb. 15.

Jose Theodore, who was pulled midway through the second period Monday after allowing four goals on 19 shots, has been in net for all four games against Florida the season, going 2-2-0 with a 3.31 goals-against average.

While the Capitals are on the verge of clinching their second straight division title, the Panthers are in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots in the East.

Florida, which has not been to the playoffs since 2000, is ninth in the conference, one point back of eighth-place Carolina and only four points out of fifth.

The Panthers postseason push has stalled a bit, though. Florida suffered its third straight defeat with a 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Despite blowing a 3-1 lead with seven minutes remaining in the third period, the Panthers managed to salvage a point. Florida, which has not lost four straight games since Dec. 26-31, also got a point in the first game of its skid - last Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh.

"We got a point and we've got to keep moving forward here," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said.

To make the playoffs, Florida needs to take advantage of a schedule featuring eight of its final 13 regular-season games at home. The Panthers opened a five-game homestand Sunday and have alternated wins and losses in their last eight at the BankAtlantic Center.

"I do think we've got to play better, especially with the teams we've got coming up here," said David Booth, who has five goals and four assists during a four-game point streak.

Tomas Vokoun stopped 24 shots against the Lightning dropping to 1-2-2 with a 3.11 GAA since March 5. He has lost his two starts against the Capitals this season and is just 1-5-0 with a 2.86 GAA in his last six games versus them.

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