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Panthers fire Gallant, name GM interim coach

Panthers fire Gallant, name GM interim coach

The Florida Panthers fired head coach Gerard Gallant on Sunday after a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes dropped the team to 11-10-1 on the season.

General manager Tom Rowe has been named the interim coach.

allant was named head coach of the Panthers in 2014 and finished second to Barry Trotz in the Jack Adams Trophy voting last season after leading Florida to an Atlantic Division championship with 103 points. That was the most successful regular season in the history of the franchise. He lasted just 22 games into his third season as a Panthers team with high aspirations currently sits in 5th place in their division and two points out of the final wild card spot.

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The way things unfolded on Sunday were a bit bizarre. After falling to Carolina, Gallant spoke to the media following the game and was then told afterward that he had been fired. With Florida on its way to Chicago for a game against the Blackhawks on Tuesday, Gallant was left behind and forced to wait for a taxi to take him to the airport after the team departed.

The Panthers will now look to Rowe to lead them back into playoff contention.

Rowe was a Washington Capitals draft pick in 1976 and played 191 games for the Caps in his NHL career. He helped lead the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006 as an assistant coach. He has also served as a head coach in the AHL, but left his position as head coach of the Portland Pirates in 2016 to become the associate general manager of the Panthers. He was promoted to general manager prior to this season.

Washington has won both meetings with the Panthers this season. The two teams will play again in the regular season finale on April 9.

MORE CAPITALS: TROTZ PLANS TO ADDRESS CAPS' GROWING PENALTY PROBLEM

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A personal best is on the line Saturday against the Sabres for Alex Ovechkin

A personal best is on the line Saturday against the Sabres for Alex Ovechkin

There’s no rest for the weary as the Capitals return to action on Saturday just one night after a win over the Carolina Hurricanes. On Saturday, Washington returns home to host the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) looking for their fifth straight win.

Here are five things to watch:

Ovechkin’s best season ever?

Ovechkin tied his career-best 13-game point streak on Friday and will look to surpass it on Saturday…at the age of 33.

Ovechkin has been absolutely dominant over the last 13 games with 16 goals and 22 points and he has six goals in his past two games with consecutive hat tricks.

If Ovechkin does make it to 14 games then it’s time to start looking ahead to the franchise record. Yes, there are still some franchise records that Ovechkin has not yet broken. The team record for most consecutive games with at least a point belongs to Mike Gartner who strung together a point streak of 17 games twice over the course of his Caps career.

The Pheonix rises…probably

After Braden Holtby got the start on Friday, Pheonix Copley is expected to get the start for Saturday’s game. It will be his first start since winning on Dec. 6 against the Arizona Coyotes.

Copley has been a pleasant surprise in net. Backup goaltending was thought to be a weakness for the Caps this season with the departure of Philipp Grubauer, but Copley has compiled a record of 6-2-1 over 10 appearances.

In his last start, he saved 27 of 29 shots for a save percentage of .931. He will have his hands full Saturday trying to keep Jeff Skinner off the board. The former Carolina Hurricane has found new life in Buffalo and is third in the league in goals with 22.

Should we be worried about the PK?

After not allowing a power play goal in the last three games, Washington almost saw their win streak come to an end in Carolina as the penalty kill gave up three goals on six power plays to the Hurricanes.

Saturday’s game should be a good chance for the PK to get back on track as Buffalo ranks only 19th on the power play at 18.4-percent. There are certainly weapons the Caps need to account for with Skinner and Jack Eichel out on the ice, but this game should be a good litmus test to see if the penalty kill took a step back or if Friday’s game was just a blip on the radar.

Burakovsky back?

Andre Burakovsky has been a healthy scratch for the last two games, but a back-to-back could give Todd Reirden a chance to get him back in the lineup. Burakovsky has responded well to these scratches in the past and always looks offensively dangerous whenever he returns. There’s more on the line this season than just playing time, however, as he is on the final year of his current contract. If he does get into the lineup Saturday, he needs to perform.

Everybody’s going streaking!

The Caps have gone 11-2-0 over their last 13 games and have scored three goals or more in each of those games, the longest streak for the team since 2010 when they did it for 23 games from January to March.

When the team is finding that much offensive success, it’s no surprise that many of the team’s players are also enjoying hot streaks of their own besides Ovechkin.

Evgeny Kuznetsov is currently enjoying the quietest seven-game point streak you will ever witness as he has tallied one goal and eight assists over that stretch. Travis Boyd is also in the midst of a three-game goal streak with the first three goals of his NHL career. In fact, the entire fourth line of Boyd, Nic Dowd and Dmitrij Jaskin is red-hot with 16 points in the last six games.

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Jonas Siegenthaler earns first NHL point and plays like he belongs in win over Carolina

Jonas Siegenthaler earns first NHL point and plays like he belongs in win over Carolina

The Capitals released the unfortunate news on Friday that defenseman Christian Djoos is out indefinitely after undergoing a surgical procedure in his left thigh. It is rare that a team can lose one of its top-six defensemen and not miss a beat, but if Friday’s game is any indication, the Caps will be just fine with keeping Jonas Siegenthaler in the lineup.

“He’s got a pretty calm mentality and I think he’s found ways to ramp it up a bit to play in the NHL level,” Braden Holtby told reporters Friday. “It’s a good quality to have.”

Siegenthaler turned in another strong performance in Friday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, just the sixth NHL game of his career. He also recorded his first career point, a primary assist on Alex Ovechkin’s first goal.

The rookie defenseman grabbed the puck at the blue line in the first period and skated in. Ovechkin turned his body to face Siegenthaler and held his stick up waiting for the one-timer. Siegenthaler fed him the puck which Ovechkin rocketed past goalie Scott Darling.

Ovechkin made sure to grab the puck as a keepsake for the rookie on his first point.

The assist was Siegenthaler’s only point of the night, but he was also instrumental in setting up Ovechkin’s second goal of the game.

Ovechkin held the puck near the blue line, closely guarded by defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Siegenthaler crossed in front of Ovechkin and knocked into Hamilton which opened up plenty of space for Ovechkin to make a play.

To be fair, the call could have easily been called for interference and Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour voiced his displeasure to the referees over the no-call on the bench. At best it was a pick play, but considering the erroneous holding penalty Ovechkin was called for earlier in the second which resulted in a goal for the Hurricanes, things certainly leveled out.

Siegenthaler’s play on Ovechkin’s second goal was notable because that is more of the type of impact you can expect to see from him. He is a physical presence on the ice and he’s not afraid to show it despite only being a rookie. Just as importantly, however, is that he also is not reckless with it.

Young, physical players can often make the mistake of being too timid when they enter the NHL, thus negating a strength of their game, or they can be reckless with throwing their body around leading to mistakes such as taking bad penalties or playing out of position to make a hit. Siegenthaler has done neither since getting recalled and his steady demeanor on the blue line certainly has caught the attention of his netminder.

“He doesn’t panic or anything and he’s making quicker plays now too,” Holtby said. “He’s got an NHL talent, that’s for sure. He’s still extremely young and the way he’s playing, he’s going to be a really good D-man. He’s already there. He’s filled in really well.”

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