Published January 13, 2015
(SportsNetwork.com) - Following a commanding effort on Friday night, the Washington Capitals try to extend their recent dominance of the Florida Panthers just one night later as they host their former division rivals.
The Capitals return home for three straight following a 3-2-0 road trip. They snapped a two-game slide by capping the swing with last night's 7-0 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers despite missing captain Alex Ovechkin due to injury.
Joel Ward stepped up with his first career hat trick and Braden Holtby made 30 saves in his eighth career shutout. Nicklas Backstrom added two goals and an assist, while Jason Chimera extended his goal-scoring streak to four consecutive games while adding three helpers.
"I think we worked hard. We worked as a team. We scored on our chances. That's what you have to do, especially when you have a good goal scorer out of the lineup," Backstrom said. "Lots of guys stepped up, and that's exactly what we needed."
Ovechkin is tied for second in the NHL with 10 goals and sat out last night's contest with an upper-body injury. His status for this game is unknown, but the Capitals didn't miss him for at least one night.
"We created turnovers, we created some speed, we cycled well - all the things we talk about on a night-to-night basis," said Washington coach Adam Oates.
Holtby's shutout included an unwanted fight in the third period as Philadelphia netminder Ray Emery skated the length of the ice to engage the Washington netminder despite Holtby's reluctance.
Emery was assessed a game misconduct, while Holtby remained in the game to complete his shutout.
That could lead to Oates opting to rest Holtby tonight despite the netminder's perfect 5-0-0 record and 2.40 goals against average versus the Panthers. Backup Michal Neuvirth is 2-3-1 against them with a 2.90 GAA.
Holtby started all four games versus the Panthers last season, when the two clubs were still playing in the Southeast Division. Washington has since moved to the Metropolitan Division under realignment, while Florida now plays in the Atlantic Division.
That will mean fewer meetings between the clubs this season, not that the Panthers will mind. They have lost seven straight and 10 of the last 13 encounters and have also dropped seven straight in D.C.
The Panthers are set to play nine of their next 11 on the road following a disappointing 1-3-2 homestand. Panthers coach Kevin Dineen is likely to shake up his lineup ahead of tonight's game after a 4-0 setback to the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.
"If we can't get everybody to compete harder than we did tonight, then we'll just stumble along," said Dineen. "We'll get our wins here and there, but we need more participation in those hard parts of the game to have success."
Jacob Markstrom allowed four goals on 23 shots for the Panthers, who were shut out for the third time this season and for the second time versus the Blues. They lost a 7-0 decision in St. Louis on Oct. 5.
With Tim Thomas out due to a lower-body injury, Markstrom was making his fourth start in a row. Thomas did not make the trip to Washington, so either Markstrom or Scott Clemmensen will get the call tonight.
Markstrom is 0-3-0 with a 3.97 GAA in his career versus the Capitals, while Clemmensen is 4-7-2 with a 3.90 GAA in 20 meetings, including 14 starts.
Clemmensen has made just one relief appearance this season.