Series (Game 6 of 6)

Washington leads 6-0

Game 1: Friday, November 6th
Game 2: Saturday, November 7th
Game 3: Thursday, December 3rd
Game 4: Wednesday, January 13th
Game 5: Friday, January 29th
Game 6: Tuesday, March 16th

Capitals 7

(47-14-9, 103 pts)

Panthers 3

(28-30-10, 66 pts)

7:30 PM ET, March 16, 2010

BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida

1 2 3 T
WSH 2 4 17
FLA 1 1 13

B. Laich (Capitals - C): Goals: 2, Assists: 1

B. Morrison (Capitals - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

N. Backstrom (Capitals - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Capitals-Panthers Preview


For the second time this season, the Washington Capitals will be forced to play without star Alex Ovechkin because of a suspension. However, the way the NHL's top team has dominated the Florida Panthers of late, they might not miss him in their next contest.

Minus Ovechkin, the visiting Capitals look to sweep the season series with a sixth consecutive win over the Panthers on Monday night.

The NHL suspended its points leader for two games after he drove Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell into the boards from behind during the first-period of Washington's 4-3 overtime road win over the Blackhawks on Sunday.

Ovechkin received a game-misconduct for the hit and Campbell suffered a broken collarbone that will likely sideline him the remainder of the regular season. The star Russian will miss this contest and Thursday's game at Carolina.

"I didn't hit him hard. I pushed him, but he fell bad. It probably looks bad," said Ovechkin, who also was suspended two games after a knee-to-knee hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason on Dec. 1.

Because of the two suspensions, Ovechkin is now considered a repeat offender under the collective bargaining agreement. He'll forfeit more than $232,000 in salary based on the number of games in the season instead of the number of days.

Despite both incidents, the Capitals organization is standing behind Ovechkin, who has 44 goals and 52 assists for a team whose 101 points lead the NHL.

"We have no problem with the way Alex tried to finish his check," Capitals general manager George McPhee said in a statement. "Unfortunately, an injury resulted. We are disappointed with the suspension but do not want to comment further."

Instead, the Capitals (46-14-9) move on looking to conclude a perfect season series against Florida. Washington is 5-0-0 against the Panthers (28-29-10) in 2009-10, outscoring them 26-12.

The Capitals could get by without Ovechkin, who had a goal and an assist while playing in two of the five games versus Florida.

Nicklas Backstrom has three goals and five assists against the Panthers this season and looks to stay hot after scoring twice and adding an assist against the Central Division-leading Blackhawks. He recorded the winner after the Capitals rallied from a 3-0 deficit to score three third-period goals without Ovechkin.

"It's a strong sign, especially now at the end of the season," said Backstrom, who has a career-high 28 goals after snapping an eight-game scoring drought Sunday. "We know (Ovechkin) is a key to our team and he scores a lot of goals. We have shown that we can play, that our other key players can, play, too."

Florida has seen that first hand against the Capitals. Despite their struggles in the series, the Panthers should have some confidence hosting the top team in the East after winning 3-2 in overtime at West-leader San Jose on Saturday.

Bryan Allen and Shawn Matthias each had a goal with an assist as the Panthers overcame a 2-0 deficit for their fourth win in five games. Florida is six points behind Boston, which holds the final playoff spot in the East.

"We know we're playing desperate hockey right now," said Matthias, who has two goals against the Capitals this season. "We're still trying to make the playoffs. Everybody was giving it their all."

Tomas Vokoun made 37 saves against the Sharks, and has a 1.95 goals-against average while winning three of four. The veteran goaltender, however, is 0-2-1 with a 3.62 GAA versus Washington this season.