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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, April 5th (All times eastern)

Florida Panthers (38-24-9) at Washington Capitals (42-31-8), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) The Washington Capitals will aim for their seventh straight win and a spot in the postseason tonight, when they welcome the Florida Panthers to the Verizon Center in the final regular-season game for both teams.

Washington, which hasn't made the playoff since 2003, comes into tonight tied with Carolina for first place in the Southeast with 92 points apiece. The Hurricanes hosted Florida on Friday in their final game of the regular season and were handed a 4-3 regulation loss by the Panthers.

The task for the Capitals is simple enough, as they need just one point in tonight's contest to take the Southeast Division title and the third seed in the Eastern Conference. However, if Washington loses in regulation then Carolina would win the division and the Capitals would miss the postseason.

Florida is actually leading the season series against Washington, as it has posted a 4-3 record against the Caps this year. The Panthers have taken nine of 13 overall against Washington and four of their last six in D.C.

The Capitals earned their latest victory on Thursday night, as they breezed past visiting Tampa Bay, 4-1. Alex Ovechkin had a historic night as he added two more goals to his league-leading total.

Ovechkin's his first marker, his 64th of the season, broke Luc Robitaille's record for the most goals by a left wing in a single season. Robitaille, who registered 668 goals and 726 assists over his 19-year career, scored 63 times with the Los Angeles Kings during the 1992-93 campaign.

The Russian sensation is also closing in on an Art Ross Trophy, as he is first in the league with 112 points and is six ahead of Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who will close out the season Sunday in Philadelphia. Ovechkin also has an insurmountable lead for the Rocket Richard Trophy as he is 13 goals in front of Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk for the NHL lead.

Boyd Gordon and Tom Poti also scored for the Capitals, who are in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season. In fact, Washington last won six in a row from January 8-19, 2000 and hasn't posted seven straight wins since February 9-23, 1993.

Viktor Kozlov and Mike Green each collected two assists, Cristobal Huet made 18 saves to pick up the win.

The Capitals are 22-15-3 as the host this year and have won five straight and seven of their last nine in D.C.

Meanwhile, the Panthers played the spoiler in Friday's game at Carolina and will try to do the same tonight in Washington. Nathan Horton and Radek Dvorak each finished with a goal and an assist, as the Panthers edged Carolina, 4-3, at the RBC Center.

The Panthers had already been eliminated from the playoff race, but snapped a 15-game winless streak at Carolina, which needed a win to clinch the division

Jay Bouwmeester and Steve Montador also tallied, and Craig Anderson stopped 26-of-28 shots in net.

Florida's starting netminder Tomas Vokoun played the first period and made 17 saves, but had to sit out the rest of the game because of back spasms. Anderson is expected to get the start tonight.

The Panthers are 20-19-1 as the visiting team this year and have taken four of five and five of their last seven road games.

04/05 10:46:09 ET


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