These Southeast Division rivals, struggling near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, look to turn around their scoring woes when they continue their season series Thursday.
Washington (21-23-7) is 12th in the East and Florida (19-23-10) is tied for 13th, standing seven and eight points back, respectively, of the eighth and final playoff spot. Both missed an opportunity to beat a team ahead of them in the standings Tuesday night, with the Capitals losing 3-2 at Ottawa and the Panthers falling 3-0 at Pittsburgh.
Ovechkin, however, produced again for the Capitals. He took over the league lead with his 32nd goal, and set a career high by recording a point for the 12th straight game (seven goals, 12 assists).
Washington, though, has scored two goals or fewer five times in that span, going 5-7-0.
“We didn’t score. That was the key,” Ovechkin said after Tuesday’s game.
The All-Star left wing has at least one point in 42 of 51 games. The Capitals are 2-7-0 when Ovechkin is held off the scoresheet.
Among the struggling Capitals are Dainius Zubrus, who has 17 goals this season but has one in his last 10 games, and Matt Pettinger, who has scored once in 21 games since netting 10 in his first 22 games of the season.
The Panthers, though, suffered their sixth shutout loss of the season in their last game, tying them with Carolina for most in the conference. They led the league with eight last season.
Florida was held to two goals or fewer for the third time in five games Tuesday, when it gave up three goals in a 13-minute span bridging the first and second periods.
“The first two periods, I think we were a little slow, a step behind and that cost us the game,” said center Olli Jokinen, who leads the Panthers with 22 goals and 52 points.
Jokinen has no goals and one assist over the past four games.
Florida’s defense suffered a loss with Branislav Mezei undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery Tuesday. Mezei played in only 16 games last season because of a knee injury, missed 37 games in 2003-04 due to an eye injury and was limited to 11 games the previous season due to foot and ankle problems.
Panthers coach Jacques Martin, though, said he is happy with how the team’s six defensemen have been playing lately and isn’t in a rush to make a roster move, according to the Miami Herald.
If Martin decides he needs another defenseman, he could recall Martin Lojek from the minors.
Panthers goaltender Ed Belfour is 2-0-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average against the Capitals this season.