Florida (7-11-1) opened this season with three consecutive defeats before winning its next three games. The Panthers followed that with losses in four of five contests, but went on to win three of their next four.
After that stretch of solid play, Florida is now in the midst of a four-game losing streak. The Panthers haven’t dropped five in a row since a 12-game slide from Oct. 27-Nov. 23, 2005.
Florida nearly ended its skid on Tuesday at Atlanta, but gave up the tying goal to Marian Hossa with 2.6 seconds left in regulation and lost 3-2 in overtime.
The Panthers had taken a 2-1 lead on David Booth’s fourth goal of the season with 4:39 left in the third period.
“It was disappointing because we put out a strong effort for a road game,” Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. “I thought we battled hard. It was bad luck, for sure, from the standpoint that (Hossa’s) puck went in. We should have won the game 2-1.”
Florida also could have beaten Carolina on Monday, but allowed Cory Stillman to score the winning goal with 1:06 remaining.
“I thought we battled hard and we probably deserved a better fate,” Martin said after the loss to the Hurricanes. “I think the key is to play hard like this every night and you will win your share of games.”
Washington (6-10-1) hasn’t been doing much winning lately.
The Capitals opened the season with three straight victories, but have since lost 11 of 14. They fell for the fifth time in six games Saturday, allowing four goals in the third period of a 5-2 home loss to Tampa Bay.
“We’re not going to go anywhere if we continue to play like that,” Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig said. “We made a point of it before the game to start putting some points together at home. We’re awful at home right now. We can’t get it done and the third period was a prime example of that.”
Washington hasn’t been much better on the road, losing six of eight since opening with victories in its first two games away from home.
The Capitals are struggling offensively, scoring 40 goals to rank near the bottom of the NHL. Alexander Ovechkin has 11 of those goals, but captain Chris Clark and Alexander Semin - 30-goal scorers last season - have just two between them.
Clark hasn’t played since suffering a severely lacerated left ear when he was struck by a shot by Ovechkin against Vancouver on Oct. 26, and Semin has been out since aggravating his sprained right ankle against St. Louis the next night.
Kolzig, though, says injuries are no excuse for Washington’s poor play.
“We’ve talked about it enough the last couple of weeks,” he said. “It all comes down to individuals knowing what they have to do and that’s it. If you need somebody else to tell you to get motivated, you’re probably in the wrong league.”
This is the first matchup of the season between these Southeast Division foes. Florida dropped the first two meetings with Washington last season, but won five of the last six.