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Ovechkin-less Capitals end losing streak with 4-1 victory over Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. - Washington came into its game against the Florida Panthers without its star player and left with even more injuries. In between, the beat-up Capitals found a way to finally come away with a win.

Jose Theodore stopped 28 shots, Brendan Morrison scored twice and the Capitals beat the Panthers 4-1 on Friday night to break a three-game losing streak.

Brian Pothier had a goal and two assists, and Tyler Sloan added a goal for the Capitals (9-3-4) in the opening contest of home-and-home series with the Panthers.

The Capitals, who were again without injured star Alex Ovechkin, will face Florida (5-8-1) on Saturday night in Washington. Capitals defencemen Mike Green (upper body) and Jeff Schultz (lower body) were hurt Friday and did not return. Coach Bruce Boudreau said their status would be updated Saturday.

"Really good teams usually have to play with a lot of injuries, because their guys are willing to pay the price of winning," Boudreau said. "I just hope our price wasn't too high."

Nathan Horton scored for Florida and Tomas Vokoun, coming off back-to-back shutouts, made 21 saves. Vokoun stopped 77 consecutive shots, dating to a second-period goal in Florida's 4-3 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 28, before Sloan scored in the first.

"They're a desperate team," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "They'd lost three in a row. Got some key players out, we've been on the other end of that. They were hungrier in the tough areas tonight than we were. There's no excuse for that."

Ovechkin missed his second consecutive game because of an upper-body injury that he sustained Sunday against Columbus. The two-time defending league MVP is considered week to week and didn't participate in Washington's morning skate Friday. It was the sixth time Ovechkin missed a game in his five-season NHL career, and the fourth time an injury has sidelined him.

Florida's only goal came midway through the third period, after Theodore made the initial save on Dmitry Kulikov's slapshot. Horton put the rebound in, spoiling what would have been Theodore's first shutout since a 3-0 win at Florida on March 17. The power-play goal made it 3-1 at 10:28.

"You never want to get scored on," Pothier said. "Obviously we would have loved to get the shutout, but we want to win."

Morrison's second goal was an empty-netter with 38.5 seconds remaining, which put the Capitals up 4-1.

Washington went up 3-0 on Pothier's power-play goal at 6:56 in the third. His slap shot from the left point beat Vokoun on his glove side.

Morrison's goal with 9:14 left in the second period gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead. Morrison took a pass from Brooks Laich and put the puck in the top of the net.

Sloan opened the scoring at 4:53 in the first period with a shot from the high slot. But Boudreau credited Theodore with helping the Caps get off to a quick start.

"Especially in the first five minutes of the game, when they had some tremendous chances and they came out on us, Jose did a great job holding the fort until we were able to get a couple goals," Boudreau said.

The Panthers had another close call earlier in the opening period, when a shot from Tomas Fleischmann trickled through Vokoun's pads. It stopped just shy of the goal-line, though, and Florida swooped in and cleared the puck.

NOTES: Florida D Bryan McCabe played in his 1,000th career NHL regular-season game. He was honoured during a pre-game presentation. McCabe, Florida's captain, is the seventh Panthers player to reach the mark in franchise history and the 247th player in the NHL. ... Panthers RW Radek Dvorak, who sustained a lower-body injury Oct. 24, skated Friday morning but did not play. Kamil Kreps (foot) also missed the game.


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