WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) — The Florida Panthers are really starting to roll.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice during a three-point night and Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist to help the Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 Tuesday in a matchup of Eastern Conference division leaders.
The Atlantic Division-leading Panthers also got a goal from Vincent Trocheck, an empty-netter from Quinton Howden and 36 saves from backup goalie Al Montoya as they won their fourth game in a row. They took advantage of backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and the absence of Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who was required to sit out after missing the NHL All-Star Game with an injury.
Florida scored on two of its four power plays while the Capitals went 0 for 8 in a game full of whistles. Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky scored for Washington.
The Panthers have outscored the two Stanley Cup finalists from last season, the NHL's top team this season and the Toronto Maple Leafs 19-5 during their winning streak. It looked easy against the Ovechkin-less Caps, who started Grubauer instead of top goalie Braden Holtby.
Florida scored four goals on 18 shots against Grubauer, though two came on the power play and one was a result of a missed defensive assignment. The Caps lacked firepower without Ovechkin and forward Marcus Johansson, who was sidelined with an upper-body injury.
Florida made the most of its chances, with Huberdeau and Barkov leading the attack. Trocheck scored an uncontested goal from a bad angle.
Montoya acquitted himself well, making 36 saves as the Panthers won at Verizon Center for the first time since Dec. 9, 2010. That snapped a 10-game home winning streak in the series for the Capitals, who lost for only the fourth time in regulation at home this season.
Panthers coach Gerard Gallant has repeatedly referred to this team as different, and this was further evidence. Early third-period goals by Backstrom and Burakovsky cut Florida's lead in half, but the effort the rest of the way was indicative of the NHL's best defensive team.
The Caps fell to 13-13-2 without Ovechkin, including 0-2-0 this season. They lost 5-0 to the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 13.
Without Ovechkin, coach Barry Trotz tried young Russian Stan Galiev on the top line in an effort to keep his other lines intact but abandoned that experiment as the game went on.
Howden scored with under 2 minutes left to seal it for the Panthers, who are nine points behind the Capitals.
NOTES: Washington defenseman Taylor Chorney left the game with flu-like symptoms. ... Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell missed his fourth consecutive game with a lower-body injury. ... Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, out since November with a lower-body injury, skated with teammates for the first time since Dec. 7. There's no timetable for his return.
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