Panthers, Caps look to stay hot
The Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers both have been playing better hockey of late, and each team wants to continue that trend when they meet in the District on Saturday night.
Both teams are coming off of overtime victories. Washington got a late overtime goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov on a breakaway -- thanks to an Alex Ovechkin assist -- that gave it a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Thursday.
As for the Panthers, they won in a similar fashion. Mike Matheson scored with 46 seconds left in the extra period on a backhander for a 3-2 victory over the Penguins Thursday.
The Capitals are in the midst of a six-game homestand coming out of the All-Star break, and they have gone 3-1 thus far. Washington badly needed this after sliding into the break on a seven-game losing streak and falling out of first place in the Metropolitan Division.
After the win on Thursday -- plus a win by the first-place New York Islanders -- Washington still sat just two points out of first place in the division. The Capitals are playing better on defense, which hurt them before the break, and getting more offense from players like Kuznetsov.
The center struggled before the break but he has gotten three goals and four assists in the four games since the break. When Kuznetsov gets going, so do the Capitals.
The win on Thursday showed that the team may be shaking a post-Stanley Cup lull. Washington took a 3-1 lead in the third period, could not hold it when goalie Pheonix Copley let in a shaky game-tying goal with just over two minutes left, and then won it in overtime.
"It was some adversity, some tough things that didn't necessarily go our way, but we stuck with it and we end up getting rewarded at the end of the game," Washington coach Todd Reirden told the media afterwards. "I'm happy with our team for sticking together as a team and finding ways to win games."
On the injury front, Washington announced Friday morning that it was recalling defenseman Christian Djoos from Hershey (AHL), where he'd been on a long-term conditioning assignment since Feb. 3.
As for Florida, the Panthers made a big deal with the Penguins last Friday, acquiring Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan, and both got points in the win over Pittsburgh.
"It was good to see," Florida coach Bob Boughner said on the team's website. "Obviously, they wanted this win a little extra than most. They both played well again for us."
Also in the win, Aleksander Barkov finished with two assists, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to reach 300 points.
Barkov has eight points in the past five games, and he is giving Florida a lift on offense as the Panthers try to get going.
Veteran goalie Roberto Luongo played in his 1,028th NHL game. That puts him one behind Patrick Roy for second place on the all-time list.
That means, of course, that if Luongo plays versus Washington in this game, he will move into a tie with Roy.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 8, 2019