Division Rivals Clash

Too many losses over the past few seasons cost Glen Hanlon his job as coach of the Washington Capitals. A fair share of those defeats came to the Southeast Division rival Florida Panthers.

Washington interim coach Bruce Boudreau looks for better results against Florida than his predecessor managed when the Capitals and Panthers meet for the third time this season Wednesday.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Washington -135 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 63% of bets for this game have been placed on Florida +125 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

The Capitals owned the NHL's worst record and were off to their poorest start in 26 years when they fired Hanlon on Thanksgiving. Hanlon went 78-123-29 with nine ties after taking over the team in December 2003, and beat Florida just five times in 23 meetings.

Washington dropped to 0-2-0 against the Panthers this season with a 4-3 home loss Nov. 19, three days before Hanlon was let go.

The Capitals (8-15-1) won their first two games under Boudreau, beating Philadelphia and Carolina before falling 3-1 at home to Buffalo on Monday.

Washington scored nine goals in Boudreau's first two wins, but was shut down by the Sabres despite putting 31 shots on goal.

"We played with energy," Boudreau said. "We played as hard as (Buffalo) and as good as them, just not as smart as them. You can't have turnovers against a great transition team in the neutral zones and both goals cost us."

Alex Ovechkin scored the only goal for Washington, giving him a point in a season-high nine straight games. It is the 22-year-old Russian's longest point streak since his career-best 13-game run last season.

Ovechkin has 17 of Washington's 57 goals in 2007-08, including three in the last two games. He has one goal and one assist this season against Florida, raising his career totals to nine goals and 13 assists in 18 games versus the Panthers.

Florida (11-12-1) enters this matchup on a season high-tying three-game winning streak after beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in a shootout Friday. It was the Panthers' fourth victory in five games following a season-high four-game skid.

Stephen Weiss put Florida ahead 2-1 early in the third period, but New York managed to tie the game with just under four minutes remaining in regulation. Captain Olli Jokinen then scored the lone goal in the shootout, finding the back of the net in the fifth round.

"It sounds funny but for the first time in my life I was practicing all summer and I told a couple guys I've got some new moves," said Jokinen, who leads the Panthers with 11 goals and 24 points. "They asked me to show them those moves and I said I'll wait for a game. I don't think I've scored one in practice doing my old stuff."

The win was coach Jacques Martin's 83rd with Florida, tying him with Doug MacLean for the most in team history.

"Two games in a row we've faced adversity and we've reacted well," Martin told the team's official Web site. "We're building confidence."

Florida is 9-2-0 with one tie in Washington since the start of the 2003-04 season.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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