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Panthers-Capitals Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (21-26-8) at Washington Capitals (19-29-5).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Florida Panthers are one of the worst road teams in the league, but that hasn't been the case in Washington this season.

Florida looks for its third victory at the MCI Center this season, and sixth straight overall against the Capitals when the teams meet for the fifth time in 2005-06.

The Panthers have just six wins in 29 games away from home this season, but two of those victories have come in Washington. Florida beat the Capitals 3-2 there on Dec. 18 and then 4-3 in a shootout on Jan. 8

The Panthers opened a three-game trip leading up to the Olympic break with a 6-4 loss on Saturday to Atlanta, which entered on a seven-game losing streak.

Florida tied the game at 3 in the second period on Jon Sim's ninth goal of the season, but allowed three unanswered scores before Chris Gratton's goal at 16:09 of the third.

"It's the same old story," said Gratton, who has three goals and two assists in his last two games. "We weren't feeding off each other. We battled for two periods and then let it slip in the third."

Nathan Horton scored his 21st goal of the season on Saturday, while Rob Globke had his first NHL goal. Joe Nieuwendyk assisted on Horton's goal, and has a season-high six-game point streak with two goals and five assists during that span.

Florida has won all four meetings with Washington this season, and goaltender Roberto Luongo has been in net for each of those victories. He's stopped 152 of 161 shots against the Capitals this season, including a season-high 53 on Dec. 18.

The Capitals lost for the fifth time in seven games Saturday, falling 5-0 on the road to Tampa Bay. The Lightning scored 11 seconds into the game and outshot Washington 37-29 in the contest.

"I think that first goal was probably the easiest shot of the game. It went in and put us behind right from the start," said Capitals goalie Brent Johnson, who made his first start since Jan. 26.

Goalie Olaf Kolzig has won four straight home games after losing a season-high five in a row at the MCI Center. Kolzig has a 1.96 GAA in his last four home starts, but has just one victory in his last eight games against the Panthers.

Alexander Ovechkin is one point away from tying Washington's rookie record of 67 set by Bob Carpenter and Chris Valentine in 1981-82. He has two goals and two assists against the Panthers this season.

STANDINGS: Panthers - 50 points, 4th place, 30 PB, Southeast Division. Capitals - 43 points, 5th place, 37 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 25 goals, 34 assists and 59 points; Gratton, 77 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 34 goals, 32 assists and 66 points; Brendan Witt, 127 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Panthers - Power play: 15.2 percent (43 for 283), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (295 for 359), 16th. Capitals - Power play: 13.8 percent (44 for 319), 29th. Penalty killing: 79.2 percent (290 for 366), 27th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (21-22-8, 3 SO, 3.02 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 3.09). Capitals - Kolzig (15-20-5, 3.38); Johnson (4-8-0, 4.09).

SEASON SERIES: Panthers, 4-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 8; Panthers 4-3, SO. At Washington, Horton and Nieuwendyk scored shootout goals and added two assists apiece for Florida.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 6-19-4 on the road; Capitals - 13-12-4 at home.

Associated Press
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