ARLINGTON – It is a record that still stands all these years later.
The Capitals and Florida Panthers have had a few memorable games dating to their days as Southeast Division rivals. One of them came 16 years ago at Capital One Arena when Washington scored 12 goals to tie a team record on Jan. 12, 2003.
One of the two Florida goalies that night? Roberto Luongo, now 39, who is expected to start tonight for the Panthers when they visit the Capitals (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).
Jaromir Jagr had three goals and four assists in that long-ago 12-2 victory. That tied his career high with seven points, something he only did twice in 1,733 NHL games over 24 seasons. The Capitals, too, tied their own goals record.
The only other 12-goal game in franchise history came on Feb. 6, 1990 against the Quebec Nordiques. Washington has reached double digits just 12 times in 44 seasons.
But that game against the Panthers in 2003 – during a year that marked the last time the Capitals would make the Stanley Cup playoffs until 2008 – was special for a host of players. Kip Miller tied his career best with four points. Peter Bondra and Dainus Zubrus each scored twice. Bondra and defenseman Sergei Gonchar had four points each. Robert Lang had a goal and two assists.
Luongo started 72 games that season for Florida and had six shutouts. But what was supposed to be a night off went south when he was called into action just 17 seconds into the second period to take over for Jani Hurme, who earned a rare start that night. The score was already 5-0 after a Steve Konowalchuk goal.
Luongo gave up four more on 14 Washington shots and by the end of the second period Jagr had a hat trick and Hurme came back in to finish the game.
Don’t expect such fireworks tonight. The Capitals (30-18-6, 66 points) are 3-1 on a critical six-game homestand, but need to bank points with an extended six-game, 12-day road trip coming up. The Panthers (22-22-8, 52 points) have moved into sixth place in the Atlantic Division. And while they are far from an Eastern Conference wild card spot, they have won five of their past seven games with every one against a current playoff team. Here is what else to watch for tonight:
Djoos is loose
The Capitals will play defenseman Christian Djoos for the first time since Dec. 11 when he needed surgery to stem compartment syndrome in his thigh after taking a hit in a game against Detroit. This marks the first time all season Washington has its expected starting lineup all together on the ice. Djoos missed 24 games.
The number of the week for Washington. Brett Connolly played in his 400thNHL game on Thursday against Colorado. Braden Holtby is expected to make his 400thappearance tonight against the Panthers. Holtby has stopped 95 of 101 shots (.941 save percentage) in three games since the All-Star break.
Alex Ovechkin has three assists in three games since the All-Star break, but he doesn’t have a goal yet. He is three points shy of passing Rod Brind’Amour for 48thplace on the NHL career scoring list and 18 away from 1,200. San Jose’s Joe Thornton is the only active player above the 1,200-point level.
The Capitals had 15 shots on goal on the power play against Colorado on Thursday. They scored once and should have had another save for a quick whistle on a Nick Backstrom goal. Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov clearly did not have the puck when Backstrom tapped it in. So while Washington is 4-for-18 on the power play over the past six games, it has looked dangerous. Don’t expect six chances tonight, but the Caps look like a team about to cash in. That’d be helpful since they haven’t had two power-play goals in a game since Oct. 22. They have drawn 14 penalties on this homestand already.
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