Luongo, who stands at third all-time in career wins by a goaltender in NHL history (488), has won three of his last four starts while posting a .922 save percentage in that span. In his last outing, he stopped 30 of 31 shots to lead Florida to a stellar 4-1 win at Boston on Saturday. Of Luongo's 30 saves against the Bruins, 16 came during a flawless first period.
"I think that was probably his best game of the year, especially his best first period I've seen him play in a long time," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "He was rested for a while. We gave Sammy [rookie Sam Montembeault] a chance, and I think we'll give Sammy another chance this week as well…. Whatever goalie is playing best is going to play, and that's Louie right now."
Luongo has helped the Panthers (35-32-12) earn at least one point in eight of his last 11 starts.
"He's been unreal," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "The last two games, he's kind of won the games for us, especially in Boston when he was standing on his head and gave us a chance to win. We scored a couple goals and he took care of everything else."
Picking up an assist against Boston, Barkov tallied his 91st point of the campaign to climb within three points of Pavel Bure's franchise record for most points in a season. Since Feb. 17, the 23-year-old center leads the NHL with 38 points, notching 15 goals and 23 assists over 23 games.
In his sixth NHL season, Barkov has set new career highs in both goals (34) and assists (57).
"With what he's been able to do this year and the amount of work he puts in every day and how he carries the team, you want to see him do it," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. "You see what he does every day and it's just amazing. It's definitely fun to watch."
Jonathan Huberdeau sits right behind Barkov in the team's scoring race, reaching a career-high 88 points on the back of his franchise-record 61 assists this season. If the 25-year-old winger can get two more points, Florida will join Edmonton and Tampa as the only teams with multiple 90-point players in the league this season. That feat would also stand as a first for the franchise.
Over the last 13 games, the Panthers' top-line of Barkov, Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov has been on an incredible scoring tear, teaming up to register a combined 21 goals and 44 assists.
"We've got one of the best lines in hockey," Boughner said. "It really is, let's be honest."
The Capitals (47-24-8) also certainly aren't lacking in offensive firepower, as captain Alexander Ovechkin paces the league with 51 goals - the eighth 50-goal campaign of his career. Behind Ovechkin, the team boasts six other 20-goal scorers this season in T.J. Oshie (25), Jakub Vrana (23), Tom Wilson (22), Brett Connolly (22), Nicklas Backstrom (21) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (20).
Leading the Metropolitan Division, Washington enters tonight's matchup riding a four-game winning streak, which was extended with a 6-3 win over NHL-leading Tampa Bay on Saturday.
"These guys are rolling right now," Boughner said of the Capitals. "They're starting to peak; Stanley Cup champions, obviously. There are definitely no easy shifts out there tonight. Trying to stay out of the box and keep the game 5-on-5 and try to play more simple like we did in Boston in the second and third period. I think that was real good hockey for us. If we can try and emulate that today against Washington, I think we'll be OK."
The Panthers are 2-0-0 against the Capitals this season, with both games going past regulation.
"The biggest this is going out playing hard the last three games," Yandle said of the team's mindset during the final week of the season. "Everyone's fighting for a reason. Any time you put on an NHL jersey, you've got to prove yourself. For us, it's about being professional, playing hard these last three games and hopefully putting on a good show for our fans."
- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers in average ice time per game (23:38), while also pacing the club's defensemen and ranking tied for 10th among NHL blueliners in goals (13). The 23-year-old enters today's matchup with 12 points (three goals, nine assists) over his last 19 games.
- Mike Hoffman leads Florida with a career-high 35 goals. Of those scores, 17 have come on the power play, which is the tied for the fourth-most in the NHL this season. The 29-year old has posted a career-best 69 points, including 10 goals and 14 assists over his last 24 games.
- Evgenii Dadonov enters tonight's contest with multi-point performances in each of his last two games. The 30-year-old winger has recorded a career-high 68 points (28 goals, 40 assists) this season, including six goals and 13 assists over his last 19 games.
- Florida's all-time leader for points by a defenseman in a single season, Keith Yandle ranks first among the team's blueliners in both points (60) and assists (51). Additionally, his 38 points on the power play also stand as a franchise record and rank third in the NHL this season. A native of Boston, he is just the 14th U.S.-born defenseman in NHL history to reach the 60-point mark.
- Vincent Trocheck has notched four points (one goal, three assists) over his last seven games and is one goal away from his 100th NHL goal. - Dryden Hunt has posted three points (one goal, two assists) over his last two games.
- Jayce Hawryluk has scored three goals over his last five games.
- Florida owns the second-ranked power play in the NHL, boasting a 27.1 percent success rate.
GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME
Roberto Luongo (17-16-4, 3.10 GAA, .900 SV%) vs. Pheonix Copley (16-5-3, 2.88 GAA, .906 SV%)
Luongo will make his third straight start for the Panthers after stopping a combined 58 of 61 shots (.951 percent) over his last two outings. The 39-year-old has won three of his last four starts overall, posting a .922 save percentage in that span. In his career against Washington, he's gone 22-12-3 with a 2.42 goals-against average. 923 save percentage and two shutouts.
After backing up Braden Holtby in each of the last six games, Copley is expected to return to the crease for the Capitals. The 27-year-old has played sporadically throughout the season, but has still managed to win each of his last six starts, posting a .913 save percentage in that span. He's faced Florida just once in his career, stopping 18 of 19 shots in a relief appearance on Oct. 19.
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Jayce Hawryluk
Frank Vatrano - Henrik Borgstrom - Colton Sceviour
Dryden Hunt - Riley Sheahan - Troy Brouwer
Mike Matheson - Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle - MacKenzie Weegar
Mark Pysyk - Josh Brown
Scratches: Denis Malgin, Jamie McGinn, Ian McCoshen, Brady Keeper, James Reimer
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder)
- March 18: The Panthers signed D Brady Keeper to a two-year, entry-level contract.
- March 15: F Colton Sceviour was activated from the injured reserve list.
- March 8: G Sam Montembeault's emergency conditions of his recall were terminated.
- March 1: D Riley Stillman was loaned to Springfield (AHL).
- Autism Awareness Night with South Florida Ford. Use the hashtag #Ford4Autism tonight as South Florida Ford will donate $5 to Autism speaks each time the hashtag is used.
- Player Favorite Things Baskets Up For Auction outside Club Lexus
- 50% Off 25th Anniversary Merchandise in Pantherland
HOW TO WATCH
When: Monday, April 1, 7:00 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL
TV: Fox Sports Florida
Stream: FOX Sports Go
Florida Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 850 WFTL (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)