The Florida Panthers have taken advantage of a scheduling break that will keep them at home for most of March.
Now, they’ll see if they can win away from home when they visit the Washington Capitals for their only road contest in a nine-game stretch.
Florida is 19-9-4 at home but has the league’s third-worst record on the road, with only eight wins in 26 games. The Panthers have four wins in five games, their best stretch since Dec. 13-22.
Backup goalie Jamie McLennan made 24 saves to pick up his first victory since April 3, 2004, and Florida scored a power-play goal for the first time in six games to beat the New York Islanders 4-2 on Friday night.
“We haven’t been in synch at all (on the power play),” said Joe Nieuwendyk, who scored with the man advantage in the second period. “I thought we were more aggressive tonight getting pucks to the net.”
Juraj Kolnik scored the game-winner with 5:07 left as Florida kept alive its slim playoff chances. The Panthers are eight points behind Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 17 games to play.
“I saw the puck was loose and I got up and put it in,” Kolnik said of his winning goal. “It’s a big two points for us.”
The Panthers and Canadiens, though, will not play each other again in the regular season.
The Capitals will be looking to avoid tying a season-high with five straight losses.
Washington has scored 13 goals during the losing streak, but has struggled killing penalties. The Capitals have allowed eight power-play goals, including three in a 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Rookie star Alexander Ovechkin was held scoreless in the loss, the third time in the last four games he has been held without a point. He had a seven-game points streak before this recent slump.
A victory over Florida would give the Capitals a .500 record at home, but the team with the Eastern Conference’s second-worst record has only seven wins away from Washington, tying it with Pittsburgh for the fewest in the NHL.
Florida has won six in a row over the Capitals overall and six straight against Washington on the road. The Capitals’ last home win against the Panthers came on April 1, 2003.