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Panthers-Capitals Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (16-22-6) at Washington Capitals (13-23-3).

TIME: Sunday, 3 p.m. EST.

The Washington Capitals are tired of feeling sorry for themselves. They just want to start winning more games.

The Capitals look to break out of their recent funk when the play host to the Florida Panthers in a matchup of the two weakest teams in the Eastern Conference.

Florida's 111 goals scored are second-fewest in the conference behind Washington's 109.

Washington lost 3-1 Friday to the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers for its third straight loss and fourth in five games. Russian Olympic team selection Alexander Ovechkin, who leads NHL rookies - and the team - with 25 goals, scored for the Capitals.

Ovechkin reached 25 goals faster than any other Capitals rookie. However, he has been one of the few highlights this season for the Capitals.

After the game, goalie Olaf Kolzig said that the team decided to examine once again its goals for the season.

"Good efforts aren't enough anymore," Kolzig said. "We've got to start finding a way to win these games. ... At some point, we've got to put a little bit of pressure on ourselves."

The Capitals, who are last in the Eastern Conference with just 29 points, will have to improve their special teams if they hope to climb the standings. Entering Saturday's games, they owned the third-worst power play percentage (13.4) in the league and the worst penalty-killing percentage (78.2).

The Flyers scored a short-handed and a power play goal against Washington, which is 4-18-1 when outscored on special teams goals. The Capitals also failed to convert on a pair of two-man advantages.

Still, Washington has scored at least one power play goal in a season-high eight games.

"I think we're playing better than people expected us to play. Now it's up to everybody in the room to bring it to another level and then try to find a way to win these games."

Sunday's game is the fifth on a season-high six-game homestand for Washington, which is a season-worst 10 games below .500.

The Panthers lost their third straight on Saturday, falling 4-0 to the New York Rangers.

"Sometimes in a game like this you need a little bit of luck," captain Olli Jokinen said.

The shutout was Florida's fifth of the season.

Florida will complete a season-high, five-game road trip with this game. The Panthers have won four straight against the Capitals, including all three matchups this season.

STANDINGS: Panthers - 38 points, 4th place, 20 PB, Southeast Division. Capitals - 29 points, 5th place, 29 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Jokinen, 18 goals, 26 assists and 44 points; Chris Gratton, 61 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 25 goals, 22 assists and 47 points; Brendan Witt, 103 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Panthers - Power play: 15.2 percent (34 for 223), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.9 percent (228 for 275), 12th. Capitals - Power play: 13.4 percent (32 for 238), 28th. Penalty killing: 78.2 percent (223 for 285), 30th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Roberto Luongo (16-18-6, 2 SO, 3.04 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 0, 3.10). Capitals - Kolzig (11-17-3, 0, 3.38); Brent Johnson (2-5-0, 0, 4.91).

SEASON SERIES: Panthers, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 18; Panthers, 3-2. At Washington, Luongo stopped a season-high 53 of Washington's franchise-record 55 shots.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 4-16-4 on the road; Capitals - 9-11-2 at home.

Associated Press

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