CAPITALS 5, PANTHERS 2
WASHINGTON – Even though the Capitals are fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the home playoff ice that comes with it, Washington didn't play a very inspired game on Wednesday night.
Good thing the Panthers were in town.
Washington watched the Panthers out shoot and out chance them as Florida dominated everything but the scoreboard in a first period in which the Capitals needed just six shots to score two goals. The Panthers, of course, have struggled to score all season so the Capitals were in control from then on as they rolled to a 5-2 win in their regular season finale at Verizon Center.
The Capitals final game of this regular season comes against Florida on Saturday in Sunrise.
Florida, mired in a nine-game losing streak, outshot the Capitals 18-6 in the opening period but found itself down 2-0 at the first break. Washington's Sean Collins, a recent call-up from the minors, made it 3-0 on the Capitals' 11th shot of the night midway through the second period.
The Panthers didn't get on the board until David Booth scored off a long slap shot with 6:16 remaining. Mike Santorelli then scored with 1:31 left, but Alex Ovechkin capped things off with an empty netter in the closing seconds.
Washington has a four-point lead on idle Philadelphia as the Capitals have won 19 of 24 including four straight.
“We wanted to jump on them, they played [Tuesday], and we had good energy and good legs,'' said Florida coach Pete DeBoer, whose team has won just three of 18 since the roster was decimated at the Feb. 28 trade deadline. “The 18 shots? We only had four or five chances but it was one of our better periods. To be down 2-0 was kind of deflating.''
The Panthers hopes of winning on Wednesday were diminished greatly by the time Washington's Jason Chimera scored to make it 2-0 with 36.2 seconds left in the first period. Florida just cannot score goals despite terrific chances as Wednesday's game marked the 17th time the Panthers have scored two goals or fewer in the past 22 games. The Panthers have won just one of those 17 games.
The absence of center Stephen Weiss didn't help things. Weiss has missed two straight games with a troublesome groin injury and four in the past few weeks. The Panthers have amassed a grand total of three goals in those games, getting shutout twice. Weiss didn't practice on Wednesday and is doubtful for Florida's road finale Friday in Tampa.
“I thought we played real well, but they got two power plays and scored on both,'' Booth said. “That cost us the game right there. I made a bad play when they scored their third and that was tough to recover from. We made it interesting, but the thing is, we have to eliminate the mistakes.''
VOKOUN BACK: FOR NOW
Tomas Vokoun missed the final weeks of last season with a back injury and didn't want to go out like that this time around. Vokoun, who had been out since March 27 after hurting his back in Pittsburgh, backed up Scott Clemmensen on Wednesday as Tyler Plante was returned to Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
“I don't want to finish watching from the stands,'' said Vokoun, a pending free agent, may have tipped his hand when he said “you don't want to leave on that note.”
-- The Panthers signed the first of their high draft picks from last summer as winger Quinton Howden signed a three-year entry level deal with the team. Howden was the third of Florida's first round picks last June, taken with the 25th overall selection secured in the Keith Ballard deal with Vancouver.
Howden, who scored 40 goals with his Canadian junior team this season, is expected to take part in training camp this fall and compete for a roster spot. If he doesn't make it, the 19-year-old will be returned to his junior team for one final season.
-- The Panthers finally regained the services of winger Tim Kennedy as he cleared waivers at noon Wednesday and played against the Capitals. Kennedy had been brought up by the Panthers on Saturday, but the team failed to properly put him on waivers so he wasn't able to play for Florida until clearing.
-- DeBoer said Ryan Carter suffered a concussion after being hit in the third period. Carter left the game but said afterward that he was fine. Carter was walking around the locker room and seemed to be in good spirits.
Florida Panthers Budget Deficit in D.C., Lose 5-2 to Capitals ... Losing Streak: 9
CAPITALS 5, PANTHERS 2