Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) deflects a shot by Florida Panthers left wing Marco Sturm (16) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
SUNRISE, Fla. - The Washington Capitals have been struggling on the road, and the Florida Panthers took full advantage.
Mikael Samuelsson had two goals and the Panthers beat the Capitals 4-2 on Wednesday night.
Stephen Weiss and Shawn Matthias also scored for Florida, and Scott Clemmensen stopped 26 shots. Tomas Fleischmann had a pair of assists for the Panthers, who moved into first place in the Southeast Division—one point ahead of Washington.
It was the first game after seven days off for the Panthers. The Capitals lost 4-3 in overtime Tuesday night at Tampa Bay and are now 8-14-3 on the road.
Brooks Laich and John Carlson scored for the Capitals, and Michal Neuvirth had 35 saves.
"It's frustrating. This game could have been a catapult to shoot us off the second half," Laich said. "We're back chasing again. Lack of success on the road is not acceptable."
Samuelsson's second goal came during a power play and gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Samuelsson got the puck in the high slot and wristed it past Neuvirth at 4:57 of the third for his first multi-goal game since Feb. 12, 2011, at Vancouver.
"It's good to start off on a good note after a little break here, coming back," Samuelsson said. "At the same time, we have to concentrate on the next game pretty much right away because it's so tight and we need the wins."
Weiss scored at 9:52 of the third to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead. Weiss pushed the puck toward the net with his stick but Neuvirth blocked the shot. The puck went up in the air, then bounced off Weiss's upper body and crossed the goal-line just before Weiss fell into the net. The goal was initially disallowed, then awarded after a lengthy review.
Weiss thought it was a goal all along.
"I didn't know they called it off. I had no idea," Weiss said. "It hit my chest. He just blocked it into me or something and I heard the crowd. It should be a good goal."
Carlson's goal came with 2:11 to go on a shot from the high slot that got past Clemmensen on the glove side to pull Washington to 3-2.
Matthias sealed it on an empty-netter with 52 seconds remaining.
"Last night we had some chances. Tonight we had some good scoring chances," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "A tight game, 3-2 in their building, and we pulled the goalie and tried to tie it up. It's tough, everyone wants to win, and it comes down to execution."
Florida coach Kevin Dineen liked the spark he saw in his team in the fight for first place.
"I was looking to see what the heartbeat of your team is and I think our guys tonight, they looked refreshed and they looked like they had jump in their legs," he said.
The Capitals tied it at one in the second. Laich brought the puck out from behind the net to the left circle. His wrist shot went over Clemmensen's left shoulder and into the net with 9:45 left in the period.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead just 33 seconds into the second. Samuelsson took a wrist shot from outside the blue-line that hit the right post and caromed into the net.
"I was cheating a little bit and he caught me," Neuvirth said. "I never had that happen to me. It's tough, but it is what it is."
Notes: Washington LW Alex Ovechkin served the last of a three-game suspension. Ovechkin is eligible to return Saturday at Montreal. ... Washington D Jeff Schultz played after being a healthy scratch the past 12 games and in 20 of the past 22. ... Florida RW Kris Versteeg missed the game with flu-like symptoms. ... Florida LW Marco Sturm returned to the lineup after missing 14 games with an upper-body injury. ... Florida called up G Brian Foster from San Antonio of the AHL to back up Clemmensen while Jose Theodore rests his knee, injured on Dec. 31 at Montreal. ... Florida RW Scottie Upshall is having sports hernia surgery and will miss at least a month.