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Uncharacteristically, the Florida Panthers had a successful November. Three matchups with the Washington Capitals certainly helped.
Now, the Panthers have a good opportunity to open December strongly as they look to remain unbeaten this season against the last-place Capitals on Saturday night.
Florida (12-13-1) went 7-6-1 in November, which is a significant departure from the past two seasons.
In 2006-07, the Panthers won just three of 13 games in November and ended up falling six points short of the playoffs. That was an improvement from the previous season as they went 1-9-3.
"It's been a lot better than the last few I've been a part of, so that's definitely a positive," Florida center Stephen Weiss said. "Hopefully, we're peaking a lot earlier than we have in the past.
"This has generally been a tough month for us where we haven't gotten a lot of wins and really had to battle back in the second half of the season."
All three of Florida's wins over last-place Washington (8-16-2) this season came in November. The Panthers have won four straight at home against the Capitals, and are 7-1-1 against them there since the start of the 2005-06 season.
On Wednesday, the Panthers posted a 2-1 win over the Capitals in a shootout that lasted 11 rounds. But Florida's four-game winning streak ended the following night with a 4-3 loss to Boston.
Panthers captain Olli Jokinen, who had a goal against the Bruins, credits much of Florida's success in November to its younger players such as second-year winger David Booth, who scored six of his seven goals this season in that month.
"With young players, there's going to be a lot of up and downs before they find their place in the league," Jokinen said. "Lately, they've been doing their job. That's the expectations that we have for them."
Craig Anderson remained winless - 0-3-1 - in four starts after making 34 saves against the Bruins, meaning Tomas Vokoun will likely be back in net for Florida on Saturday. He's started all three games against the Capitals this season, and is 5-3-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average in eight career games against them.
Washington had scored one regulation goal in two straight contests before a 4-3 loss to Carolina on Friday night. It was the Capitals' third straight defeat, and they fell to 2-2-1 under interim coach Bruce Boudreau.
"It's like a black cloud is hanging over us. We feel like Linus in the Snoopy cartoons," said Boudreau, who took over the fired Glen Hanlon late last month. "But at the same time, it's adversity we have to fight out of, and when you do fight out of that, eventually you're going to succeed."
Alexander Ovechkin again provided most of Washington's offense Friday, finding the back of the net twice and adding an assist. Ovechkin, who has 19 goals and 30 points on the season, was happy with the way his team was able to move the puck.
"I think we have to play the same way again," said Ovechkin, who has seven goals and 16 points in his last 13 games against the Panthers. "This is our game."