Panthers Ready To Lash Last-Ranked Capitals
(AP) — Very little has gone right for the NHL-worst Washington Capitals, who failed to keep up again their last time out.
While the Florida Panthers also struggled in the early going, they’ve picked up plenty of steam over the last week-plus.
The Capitals try to avoid matching their longest pointless streak from all of last season Saturday against the Southeast Division rival Panthers, losers of five straight in the nation’s capital.
After reaching the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, Washington (2-8-1) could have a hard time contending if its efforts thus far are any indication. The Capitals have allowed a league high-tying 41 goals and have scored just 2.3 per game.
“A little bit of everything,” first-year coach Adam Oates said when asked what needs to change. “You got to be a strong team, you got to do as many little things as you can, which includes the goalie. … We have to fight through our mistakes.”
The Capitals made more than their fair share of errors Thursday in a 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh. Washington took an early 1-0 lead but allowed five unanswered goals in the second period, dropping to 0-3-0 over its last three games. The Capitals were last handed four consecutive regulation losses Nov. 25-Dec. 1, 2011.
“We need a win and once we get that win, confidence will build up,” said Mike Ribeiro, who scored his team best-tying fourth goal Thursday. “We just have a hard time playing 60 minutes.”
That hasn’t been an issue against the Panthers (4-5-1) of late, especially at home. Washington has taken eight of nine from Florida on its own ice, including the last five by a 19-6 margin thanks to five goals and four assists from Alex Ovechkin.
Although the usually high-scoring forward has just three goals – all on the power-play – general manager George McPhee doesn’t appear too concerned. Ovechkin, who scored Thursday, enters the weekend riding a three-game point streak.
“I really like the way Alex has played the last four games,” McPhee said. “Adam is convinced that he can get him playing the way that Ovi can play. … He’s getting a lot more chances on the right side than the left. He’s a much more effective player. I like it a lot. You might disagree, but it looks a lot better to us.”
After scoring just five goals during an 0-5-0 skid, the Panthers have averaged 3.5 in taking seven of a possible eight points.
The reigning division champs continued their recent prowess Thursday in a 3-2 shootout victory at Philadelphia. Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller both scored shootout goals and former Washington goaltender Jose Theodore made 30 saves to win his third consecutive start
“Coming in here and getting two points is huge for our confidence,” said Theodore, who’s 1-5-0 with a 3.88 goals-against average in his last seven games as an opponent at Washington.
Stephen Weiss also came up big Thursday, scoring the game-tying goal – his first of the season – 8:35 into the third period.
“He’s a big piece to our puzzle, and it’s good to see him get on the board,” coach Kevin Dineen said of Weiss, who has seven goals and 24 points in his last 21 matchups against the Capitals. “But it’s more than just the goals, he goes into the corners, he wins faceoffs and does all the little things for us. We see that every night.”
Weiss could be in for another big game against Braden Holtby, who’s gone 1-4-0 with an NHL-worst 4.74 GAA among qualified goalies.
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