Nieuwendyk nets lone shootout goal in Florida win

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Florida Panthers are still fighting to
keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Joe Nieuwendyk helped the Panthers pick up two more points in
the standings Saturday night, scoring the only shootout goal in
Florida's 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals.

The win pulled the Panthers within six points of the final
Eastern Conference playoff spot. Florida and Boston both have 65
points after Saturday victories, while Montreal, Atlanta and
Toronto, all of whom are ranked higher, suffered losses.

"Right now, we're in the thick of the schedule," Florida coach
Jacques Martin said. "We have three home games this week, and
they're huge for us. It's up to us to make the most of it."

Nieuwendyk scored in the second round of the shootout, and
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo shut out Washington on its three

"It's nice when you win and you look at the scoreboard, and
you're getting some help," Nieuwendyk said. "We battled back
hard. They work hard and they're probably as physical as any team
we play, so for us to come back is a sign of character."

The Panthers have won all six games with Washington this season,
including their only two shootout victories.

Four of Florida's nine road wins this season have been at
Washington, and the Panthers are 6-0-1 versus the Capitals in road
games during the last two seasons.

Florida has won five of its last six games while trying to earn
a playoff spot, but the Panthers are just concentrating on their
own business.

"We can't control how the other teams play," Florida center
Olli Jokinen said. "But it was a big two points."

Chris Clark had his first three-goal game of his NHL career and
Alex Ovechkin had two assists in the loss. Washington has lost five
consecutive games.

Florida held a 44-40 edge in shots as both teams had numerous
scoring chances.

Luongo finished with 37 saves and also earned his third assist
of the season. Washington goalie Olie Kolzig made 40 stops.

"We'll just keep working on the execution," Washington coach
Glen Hanlon said. "Our next step of improvement is to be close to
perfect on execution of your systems."

Clark gave Washington a 1-0 lead 4:19 into the game with an
assist from Ovechkin. Jonathan Sim tied it for the Panthers a few
minutes later.

Ovechkin got a second assist when Clark scored for a 2-1 lead
with 4:41 left in the first period. Washington held the lead until
Rostislav Olesz and Jay Bouwmeester scored 15 seconds apart to give
Florida a 3-2 lead with 5:43 left in the second period.

Bouwmeester didn't score a goal in his first 65 games but has
goals in two straight. His shot from left circle tied the game, and
Olesz then beat Kolzig after the ensuing faceoff for the 3-2 lead.

But Clark completed the hat trick and tied the game by flipping
the rebound of a Mathieu Biron shot over Luongo with 17:56 left.

Game notes
Dainius Zubrus had an assist to run his career-best points
streak to seven games. ... Clark has scored the first Washington
goal nine times this season. ... Luongo started 22 straight games
before sitting out Friday night's win over the New York Islanders.