Caps fall to Panthers 4-2, fall to second in Southeast

Playing in the second of back-to-back games, the Washington Capitals looked out of gas on Wednesday night, the Florida Panthers took full advantage. 

Florida used three third period tallies to break a 1-1 tie after two periods to take the battle for first place in the Southeast 4-2 over Washington on Wednesday night in Sunrise. 

Mikael Samuelsson scored twice for the Panthers, who took a one-point lead over the visiting Capitals in the division. Stephen Weiss added a third period and Shawn Matthias' empty net goal capped the evening for the surprising Panthers. 

Despite playing the previous night into overtime in Tampa Bay, the Caps had a chance to win or earn at least a point with 20 minutes left, but came up short this time. Brooks Laich and John Carlson had goals for the Caps, who fall out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture with the loss. 

If there was a silver lining for the Capitals in the loss, it's that they'll get star sniper Alex Ovechkin back from suspension on Saturday when they travel to Montreal. Ovechkin was suspended three games by the league for a hit last month. 

Another bright spot was the play of goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who stopped 34 of 37 shots in a losing cause. 

Scott Clemmensen turned aside 26 of 28 Capitals shots to earn the victory, his seventh of the season in 16 games. The veteran has suffered just two regulation losses in those 16 starts, however, he has five overtime losses. 

Washington outhit Florida 38 to 24 but was dominated in the faceoff dot, where the Panthers took 29 draws to the Caps' 19. Florida was 1-4 on the powerplay while the Caps failed to score in either of their powerplay opportunities. 

The Caps skated well through two periods of play but appeared to tire in the third period down the stretch where the Panthers took advantage and pounced with three goals. 

The Caps still have three more games against the Panthers before the end of the season, with two of the matchups coming back at Verizon Center. Those games could very well determine who sits atop the division going into the playoffs. 

They won't have to wait long to see these Panthers again as the Caps will host the Cats at Verizon Center next Tuesday. 

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