SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers return home on Tuesday night after an up-and-down 3-game road trip.
Florida will welcome the Washington Capitals to the BB&T Center, a team that has seen its fair share of success against the Panthers in recent years.
Almost two years have passed since the Capitals last won four straight road games. It’s been even longer since they’ve failed to earn at least a point anywhere against the Panthers.
The Capitals can record a fourth consecutive road victory by continuing their recent success against the Panthers on Tuesday night.
Washington (14-10-5) outscored Carolina, New Jersey and Tampa Bay 11-5 to sweep its most recent trip and improve to 8-5-1 away from home. The Capitals last won four in a row on the road March 21-30, 2013.
They followed their perfect trip by going 1-0-1 at home against Columbus and the Lightning. Nicklas Backstrom recorded his first regular-season hat trick to help the Capitals extend their point streak to five with a 4-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“We’re playing better,” Backstrom told the NHL’s official website. “We’ve got better control overall out there with everything. Everyone is stepping up. Everyone is playing good, playing hard.
“We’re coming out flying these days. That’s good. That’s exactly what we need.”
The Capitals leader with 22 assists and 30 points and known as one of the game’s best set-up men, Backstrom has eight goals. His only other three-goal game came against Montreal during the 2010 playoffs.
“It doesn’t happen a lot that I score three goals in a game,” said Backstrom, who hasn’t scored more than 18 in any of the last four seasons. “It was fun. The biggest thing is that we got two points.”
Backstrom had recorded a goal in three straight against Florida (12-8-8) and 12 points in his previous six meetings before being blanked in Washington’s 2-1 shootout home victory Oct. 18. He did score in the shootout and has a goal in two straight at Sunrise with eight assists over the last four there.
Alex Ovechkin, who also scored in the shootout Oct. 18, has six goals and four assists in his last five road games in the series.
Washington is 10-0-1 against the Panthers since a 4-2 loss at Florida on Feb. 1, 2012 – its only regulation defeat in the last six there.
The Panthers are in the midst of a 3-0-1 home stretch and return to Sunrise following a 1-1-1 trip that concluded with Saturday’s 4-3 overtime defeat to Buffalo.
“Overall we got three points in three tough buildings,” said coach Gerard Gallant, whose team won in a shootout at Detroit after opening the trip with a loss to St. Louis. “Not happy, but, I guess, satisfied going home.”
Florida trailed 2-0 after the first 20 minutes Saturday, and was outscored 6-2 in the first period on the road swing. The Panthers have allowed eight goals in the first over the last five contests.
“I don’t care if we get behind as long as we come back and finish it off the right way,” Gallant said. “We didn’t have a good start at all (again Saturday).”
With a goal and an assist against the Sabres, Florida’s Sean Bergenheim has three points in two games. He’s recorded four assists in his last four against Washington.
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