GAME: Washington Capitals (14-27-5-2) at Florida Panthers (15-20-10-3).
TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
Until they stop blowing leads, a playoff berth for the Florida Panthers is
Florida tries to rebound from a very disappointing loss when it closes a
four-game homestand against the Washington Capitals.
Florida built a 3-0 lead after one period Wednesday against Colorado before
allowing the first three scores in the second period. Alex Tanguay's third goal
of the game with 5:41 left in regulation gave the Avalanche a 6-5 victory.
Stephen Weiss and Valeri Bure had a goal and two assists apiece for the
Panthers, who failed to get a victory for the seventh time this season in games
they led by at least two goals.
"That's our problem, we get ahead and then we seem to get away from our
game," Florida's Marcus Nilson said. "Once we get the lead, we have a problem
playing the same way for 60 minutes. A team like that has a lot of firepower."
Roberto Luongo stopped 23 of 29 shots before he was replaced late in the
third period by Steve Shields.
"It's going to be a tough game for any goalie," Luongo said. "I tried to
do my best, but obviously I wasn't that successful."
Florida, 1-3-1-1 in its last six games, remained 12th in the Eastern
Already missing forward Viktor Kozlov and defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and
Branislav Mezei, the Panthers were without defenseman Mike Van Ryn for most of
Wednesday's game. According to Florida coach Rick Dudley, Van Ryn was hit with
a high stick from Colorado's Peter Worrell.
A coaching change last month hasn't been able to get the Capitals into
playoff contention. They are 6-9-4-1 since Glen Hanlon replaced Bruce Cassidy,
and 14 points behind the eighth-place New York Islanders.
Washington had earned a point in a season-best five straight games before a
3-2 loss to visiting Toronto on Wednesday.
"Every point counts now, especially in our case," Washington's Sergei
Gonchar said. "We're way behind and to catch up we have to get every possible
point of it, and today was a game when we needed to get at least one."
The Capitals could have center Dainius Zubrus back in the lineup Friday.
Zubrus, out since Dec. 31 with a broken foot, is fifth on the team with 23
points in 38 games.