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Florida Looks to Extend Unbeaten Streak to 6 Games

SUNRISE - Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers, who are unbeaten in their past five games (3-0-2), welcome the Washington Capitals to South Florida tonight. Florida's five-game undefeated stretch is currently the longest active streak in the NHL. The Cats are coming off a 4-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the Caps dropped a 2-1 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night. Tonight's game is also a Papa John's We Win-You Win Southeast Division challenge night.


PROMOTIONS: If the Panthers win, tickets for tonight's game are valid for a free 10-inch cheese pizza from Papa John's (carry out only, must redeem within 48 hours). Tonight also is Panthers Cap Night, courtesy of Motorola and Nextel, and the first 10,000 fans will receive a free Panthers cap. After the game, the Cats hit the road for a two-game trip with stops in Chicago on Sunday at 3 p.m. and a re-match with the Capitals on Tuesday, March 2.


TV: Fox Sports Net.


RADIO: WQAM 560 and ESPN 760 AM. Listen now!


LIFETIME SERIES: The Panthers and Capitals have met in 54 regular season meetings with the Cats posting an 18-24-9-3 mark against Washington and a 11-11-4-1 record in games played in the Office Depot Center. Florida is undefeated against the Caps this season, going 2-0-2-0. Florida suffered their last loss to Washington on April 1, 2003, when they were blanked 3-0 in the MCI Center For his career, RW Donald Audette has 28 points (13-15-28) in 33 games against the Caps. Washington D Sergei Gonchar has 30 points (10-20-30) in 42 games against the Cats.


CATS' LAST GAME: G Roberto Luongo stopped 33 shots to earn his second consecutive shutout and his third in four games, leading the Panthers to a 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs before a crowd of 18,561 on Wednesday night at the Office Depot Center. The line of Juraj Kolnik, Matt Cullen and Valeri Bure provided the majority of the offense, combining for three goals and four assists between them. Kolnik notched two goals and an assist for a career-high three points. The win was Florida's second consecutive shutout and the third in the last four games. The Panthers ran their unbeaten streak to five games overall (3-0-2) and five straight at home (4-0-1).


PLAYING THE CAPITALS: Tonight's game marks the fifth meeting between the Cats and Caps this year. So far this season, the Panthers are undefeated against Washington, going 2-0-2-0, earning six out of a possible eight points against their divisional rivals. Florida posted a 3-2 overtime win, on a goal by C Stephen Weiss when the two clubs first met on Nov. 22, followed by a 2-2 tie in South Florida on Dec. 17 and a 4-1 at the ODC on Jan. 23. Last week the two clubs battled to a 2-2 tie in the MCI Center. G Roberto Luongo has played in all four contests, posting a 1.67 GAA, while LW Kristian Huselius has three assists against the Caps this year. C Robert Lang has four points (2-2-4) in four games played against Florida this year.





Nov. 22 Panthers @ Capitals 3-2 OTW


Dec. 17 Panthers vs. Capitals 2-2 T


Jan. 23 Panthers vs. Capitals 4-1 W


Feb. 21 Panthers @ Capitals 2-2 T


Feb. 27 Panthers vs. Capitals


Mar. 2 Panthers @ Capitals



BETWEEN THE PIPES: G Roberto Luongo recorded his second consecutive shutout, his sixth of the year (22nd of his career) on Feb. 25 vs. Toronto. Luongo's current shutout streak stands at 137:50 (22:15 shy of team record he set last week). He ranks first in the NHL making 1826 saves and is first among NHL goaltenders who have played over 40 games with a .935 save percentage and third among goalies who have played over 50 games with a 2.24 GAA. Luongo is unbeaten in his last five starts (3-0-2) turning away 169 of 172 shots faced with three shutouts, posting a .982 save percentage and a 0.58 GAA. Since the All-Star break, he has recorded a 5-2-2 mark with a 1.09 GAA and a .967 save percentage. He is just 22 saves shy of breaking his own franchise record of 1,847 saves in a season, set last year and with eight more victories he would break the club single-season record of 27 set by John Vanbiesbrouck in 1996-97. Additionally, if he plays in nine more games (66) he would break his own team mark of 65 played in a season, also set last year.With three more ties, Luongo would break the club single-season mark of 14 set by Sean Burke in 1998-99 and with one more shutout he would break his own team mark of six, set last season. Luongo is also within reach of the team's single-season record for GAA (2.29-Vanbiesbrouck in 1996-97) and save percentage (.924-Vanbiesbrouck in 1993-94).


HOME SWEET HOME: The Panthers have lost just twice in regulation (Philadelphia 1/2 & Colorado 1/21) in their last 17 home contests going 9-2-4-2 in games played inside the ODC. The Cats are currently riding a five-game home undefeated streak (4-0-1). Florida has earned 24 points in their last 17 home games, while outscoring their opponents 46-32. With their 2-1 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday, Jan. 17, Florida earned their ninth home win of the season surpassing their total of eight from last season.


YOUTH IS SERVED: With his 4-0 blanking of Toronto on Feb. 25, G Roberto Luongo ranks tied for first among NHL active goaltenders under the age of 25 with 22 career shutouts. New Jersey's Martin Brodeur also recorded 22 shutouts prior to turning 25. Luongo will turn 25 on April 4, 2004.




22 Roberto Luongo

22 Martin Brodeur

15 Osgood, Chris

13 Jocelyn Thibault

13 Nikolai Khabibulin


FANTASTIC FIVE: The Cats are unbeaten in their last five games going 3-0-2, recording ties against Buffalo (1-1, 2/18) and Washington (2-2, 2/21), a pair of 2-0 shutout victories over Pittsburgh (2/20) and Boston (2/23) and a 4-0 win over Toronto (2/25). Florida's last five-game unbeaten streak occurred Jan. 8-17, 2000, when the Panthers recorded five consecutive wins.


PANTHERS PLAYOFF PROWL: Entering tonight's contest against the Washington Capitals, the Panthers sit seven points behind the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.


TERRIFIC TRIO: The line combination of Juraj Kolnik, Matt Cullen and Valeri Bure accounted for seven of the Panthers 11 points in the Cats 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 25. Kolnik recorded a career-best three points (2-1-3), with Cullen (1-1-2) and Bure (1-1-2) picking up a pair of points each.


ON THE PK: The Panthers rank third overall killing off 85.8% (242-280) of their opponent's power play opportunities and place third at home killing 89.4% (110-123) of their opponent's power play opportunities. The Cats have killed off 33 consecutive penalties and have allowed just three power play goals in their opponent's last 71 power play attempts.


WITH THE MAN ADVANTAGE: Florida's home power play ranks eighth in the league scoring 21 goals on 107 power play attempts. Overall, the Cats place 18th in the league scoring 36 power play tallies on 229 opportunities.


BY THE NUMBERS: Florida is...15-7-5-1 when scoring the first goal of the game...9-5-4-0 when leading after 20 minutes of play... 14-3-4-1 when leading after two periods of play...8-2-7-2 when tied after 40 minutes of play. In addition, the Cats have come from behind to earn at least one point in 19 games that they have trailed in this year. They have earned wins when trailing by two goals three times this season, against Phoenix (5-4, 2/4), Montreal (4-2, 12/12) and Anaheim (3-2, 12/27).


DOWN ON THE FARM: The San Antonio Rampage are in sixth place in the West Division with a 21-28-6-0 mark. RW Denis Shvidki paces the club with 39 points (13-26-39) in 53 games. The Rampage host the Houston Aeros this evening. The Laredo Bucks are in first place in the Southeast Division with 43-6-5 record and have clinched the Southeast Division title. C Patrik Nilson, the younger brother of Panthers LW Marcus Nilson, ranks third on the Bucks with 57 points (22-35-57) in 50 games played. The Augusta Lynx (ECHL) are in sixth place in the Central Division with a 22-25-6 record.

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