Cats Now Just Four Points Out of the Eighth Playoff SpotGoldie's post-game recap:
What an afternoon for the Panthers here in DC. The Cats dominated the final 2 periods outscoring the Caps 4-0 and outshot them 34-9. The 4-1 final could have been 6, 7 or 8-1 if not for Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig who made some big saves. Down the stretch Ed Belfour came up big as the Caps got their offense in gear trying to cut into the lead. The Panthers were finally rewarded for a strong road effort and were able to close the game out with the lead late. Martin Gelinas scored twice, the first goal and an empty netter to ice the game. In between, Jozef Stumpel's shorthanded goal was the game winner and Nathan Horton set up Ville Peltonen with the all important 3rd goal that gave the Panthers some breathing room. Defensively, the Cats were strong in front of Belfour. They also killed off all 7 Caps power plays. The Panthers would have had it put away sooner if they had cashed in on power play chances. The Cats wound up 0-10. Some of that lack of success must go to Kolzig and some of his saves. This was a huge win after disappointments this past week at home, losing in overtime to Carolina and dropping a 3-2 decision to Toronto.
The Cats are alive in the playoff race. They are now just 4 points behind 8th place although there a number of teams in between and some of those teams have played less games. After the All-Star break the Cats are home for the Devils Saturday night. They need to continue to play with the intensity they have showed often of late but need to be able to win games down the stretch, like
this one here in Washington. Ed Belfour is on a roll going 7-1-3 in his last 11 starts. The team will also need Alex Auld to give good efforts in the final 33 games if they are to reach the playoffs. The All-Star game is Wednesday night and Jay Bouwmeester will be there for the
Panthers. The 23-year-old has a career high 8 goals and has been the team's best blueliner.Goldie's 2nd intermission update
The 2nd period was as dominant as the Panthers have playerd this year. They scored twice in the opening 5:59 to take a 2-1 lead. They had the first 17 shots in the period as well. The Cats had numerous cahnces to make it 3-1, the best being Olli Jokinen's shot that hit the post. Gelinas and Stumpel got the goals, Stumpel's shorthanded. Anthony Stewart picked up his 1st point of the season as he fed Gelinas on the backhand for the 1st goal. Panthers ended the period with an 18-3 shot advantage and will carry a 2-1 lead into the 3rd.Goldie's 1st intermission update:
It was a penalty filled start to this afternoon's game in DC. 7 minors called in the 1st 8 minutes. The power play parade, 4 for each team, produced the only goal. Washington's Danius Zubrus scored his 17th on a 5 on 3 advantage. The Cats had their chances, the best one by Rostislav Olesz, late in the period. The penalty calls settled down after the opening 8 minutes. The Panthers are down a goal and are in good shape if they stay out of the box.Goldie's pregame blog:
The Panthers are ready to go here in DC. The final game before the All-Star break is on tap. A huge 2 points are up for grabs aginst the Capitals who have a 3 point lead on the Cats in the standings. The Panthers need to play a simple road game and be smart against a couple of players who can hurt you in a big way. The Alex's, Ovechkin and Semin are both in the top the top 7 in goals in the NHL. Ed Belfour will be in goal today. He's played well with a 6-1-3 record in his last 10 starts.Game Preview:
The Washington Capitals suffered a lopsided loss in a visit to the BankAtlantic Center last week. They hope to return the favor when they face the Florida Panthers at the Verizon Center on Saturday.
The Capitals (20-20-7) fell 7-3 to the Panthers last Saturday, tying their season high for goals allowed.
"We just didn't play well tonight, obviously," Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig said. "They responded well (to a loss in their previous game) and we weren't prepared for it. If you're not ready to play or an aspect of your game is a little bit off it's apparent in this league. We just weren't on track."
After losing the first three games of a four-game road trip - giving up 17 goals in the process - Washington got back on track Thursday with a 5-2 win over Carolina. The victory snapped a six-game road losing streak and prevented the Caps from dropping seven straight on the road for the first time since losing that many from Feb. 28-March 27, 2004.
Alexander Semin had two goals against the Hurricanes to give him 10 in his last seven games. Chris Clark also scored twice to extend his goal streak to four games and his point streak to six.
All-Star Alexander Ovechkin, battling for the NHL scoring lead, extended his point streak to eight games with an empty net goal late in the third period.
"It reassures our group that they can play against the reigning Stanley Cup champions," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. "You give good effort, you play well and we can win these games."
While the Capitals are looking to exact revenge for last week's loss, the last-place Panthers (17-22-10) are hoping to close the gap between them and the Caps in the Southeast Division. Florida trails Washington by three points.
Florida hopes for repeat performances from Stephen Weiss
and Jay Bouwmeester in the matchup with the Caps. Weiss recorded his first career hat trick against Washington last week, while Bouwmeester added two goals and two assists.
"It feels good. I was wondering if I was ever going to get one of those (hat tricks)," said Weiss, who was playing his 214th game in his fourth NHL season. "It was one of those nights where the bounces went my way. It was a big win and we had a solid game."
Since that victory, though, the Panthers have suffered consecutive 3-2 losses. They fell to Toronto on Thursday for their sixth defeat in eight games.
"We had chances before the third to make it a different game," Florida's Ville Peltonen said. "We came all out in the third but it wasn't enough today. Close, but not enough."
The Capitals lead the season series 2-1. Florida went 7-0-1 against Washington last season.