Lowly Caps hope to turn things around vs. Panthers

The lowly Washington Capitals will try to get something going on Saturday, as they host the improving Florida Panthers in the opener of a home-and-home series at the Verizon Center.

The Capitals are off to a dismal 2-8-1 start to the season and their five points has the club sitting dead last in the NHL standings. It's the team's fourth-worst start through 11 games and the last time Washington had less than five points at this stage of a season was during an 1-10-0 start to the 1981-82 campaign.

Washington has lost three straight and is 1-5-0 in its last six games, but the club hopes a return to home ice can help them get on track.

After a 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Capitals are 0-4-1 on the road this season, but the team is 2-4-0 as the hosts.

Washington led the Penguins 1-0 after the first period, but it was all downhill from there. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each posted a goal and two assists and Pittsburgh scored five times in the second period en route to a 5-2 win.

It marked the third straight game that Washington scored the first goal and still wound up on the losing end.

Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro each notched a goal and a helper for the Capitals in the loss. Michal Neuvirth gave up two goals on 11 shots before being pulled in the second period. Braden Holtby allowed three tallies on 17 shots in relief.

Washington allowed Pittsburgh to go 3-for-4 on the power play, marking the fifth time in 11 games this season that the Caps have allowed more than one power-power play goal.

"We had that early lead then we stopped playing," said Ovechkin. "You know, we took a bunch of stupid penalties and they killed us with it."

The Capitals carry a three-game series' winning streak into Saturday's game against Florida, but the Panthers enter this contest playing their best hockey of the season.

Florida opened the campaign with a win over Carolina before losing its next five games in regulation. Since that 0-5 stretch, however, the Panthers have posted a point in four straight contests, going 3-0-1.

The Panthers are coming off Thursday's road win in Philadelphia. Jonathan Huberdeau was credited with the winner in a shootout, as Florida downed the Flyers, 3-2.

The rookie Huberdeau opened the deciding stanza by scoring after fooling Ilya Bryzgalov with several stick moves. Peter Mueller also tallied in Florida's next chance, while Jose Theodore turned away Matt Read and Claude Giroux to win the contest.

"I take pride in it," said Mueller of his mindset in the breakaway round. "It's a time where you can steal a point right there."

Jack Skille and Stephen Weiss scored in regulation for the Panthers. Theodore ended up with 30 saves as the visitors avenged a 7-1 home loss to the Flyers on Jan. 26.

"It was a little bit of payback for last time. We did get outplayed pretty badly," Theodore admitted.

Florida is 2-3-1 as the guest this season and is completing a four-game road trip on Saturday. Next up for the Panthers is a four-game homestand that is set to begin Tuesday against Washington in the finale of this home-and-home.