Last season, the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers fought each other for the top spot in the Southeast Division.
This year, both are trying to avoid last place in the Eastern Conference.
Still in search of their first road win and coming off a victory in the teams’ initial 2013 meeting, the visiting Capitals look for a fifth straight win over the Panthers in the finale of a home-and-home set Tuesday night.
Florida (4-6-1) edged Washington by two points to win its first division title in 2011-12. The Panthers are again two points better than the Capitals (3-8-1), but it’s to stay out of the basement in the East. Washington’s seven points are the fewest in the NHL.
The Capitals will try a third time to win consecutive games after rolling to a 5-0 victory over Florida on Saturday.
“We just have to come ready to play the next game,” Panthers forward Kris Versteeg said. “They were obviously the better team, but we’ve just got to find a way to come back.”
Troy Brouwer had two goals and Braden Holtby made 27 saves for his fourth shutout as Washington snapped a three-game skid by extending its home winning streak over the Panthers to six.
“A lot of confidence as a group going forward,” Brouwer told the Capitals’ official website. “Knowing that, we need to stick together.”
Washington had not scored more than three goals in any game this season but broke out one day after holding a players-only meeting.
“I think everybody bought in,” said forward Mathieu Perreault, who record his first points with a goal and an assist after being a healthy scratch the past five games.
With his second goal in as many games, Washington star Alex Ovechkin has five points in four contests. He’s totaled five goals while Washington has outscored the Panthers 15-3 during its four-game series winning streak.
Holtby has stopped 39 of 41 shots while winning both of his appearances versus Florida. Teammate Michal Neuvirth has allowed 11 goals in his last four starts, and he has a 3.05 goals-against average during a three-game road skid against the Panthers.
At 0-4-1, Washington is off to its worst road start since opening 0-6 with a tie in 2003-04.
The Panthers were in the midst of a 3-0-1 stretch prior to Saturday’s meeting but struggled to generate many quality chances or contain the Capitals while concluding a 2-1-1 trip.
“They were obviously a desperate team, but at least we could have made a game out of it,” defenseman Brian Campbell told the Panthers’ official website. “The frustrating part is we didn’t give ourselves a chance and we’ve done that too many times this season. We knew they would come out and needed the points as bad as we did. We needed to match them. We didn’t.”
Florida’s Jose Theodore was pulled after allowing all five goals on 21 shots Saturday. The ex-Capital is 0-3-0 with a 3.98 GAA against his former team since leaving Washington prior to the 2010-11 season.
Tomas Fleischmann, another former Capital, had a goal and three assists in three home games versus Washington last season.