Washington Capitals to face Florida in first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Capitals will face the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The first-round matchup was confirmed Friday, with the Capitals finishing the regular season in the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference following their 3-2 loss against the New York Rangers.

The Panthers are the No.1 seed in the East and finished with the NHL’s best overall record.

The first-round series begins Tuesday at FLA Live Arena in Florida.

The entire series schedule is listed below.

Tuesday, May 3, 7:30 p.m.: Capitals @ Panthers

Thursday, May 5, 7:30 p.m.: Capitals @ Panthers

Saturday, May 7, 1 p.m.: Panthers @ Capitals

Monday, May 9, 7 p.m.: Panthers @ Capitals

*Wednesday, May 11, TBD: Capitals @ Panthers

*Friday, May 13, TBD: Panthers @ Capitals

*Sunday, May 15, TBD: Capitals @ Panthers

(*If Necessary) 

“We know what they’re capable of and the kind of season they’ve had, and it’s going to be a great test for us,” defenseman John Carlson told reporters following the regular-season finale in New York. “We’re excited to be back in a position to play for the Stanley Cup. That’s step one and that’s where our focus is now- our excitement and focus goes on to that first game now.”

The Capitals, who had the NHL’s best road record this season, will begin the postseason as a lower seed on the road for the first time since 2012 and for just the second time in 14 playoff appearances in the Alex Ovechkin era. Washington limped to the finish line of the regular season, losing three consecutive games in regulation and dropping four straight overall (0-3-1).

“It’s certainly going to new for us,” said veteran forward Lars Eller. “I think we’ve always been better on the road anyways and I think history shows that in the playoffs, home or away, it doesn’t really matter.”

Ovechkin missed the final three games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. But the team is hopeful he could return for Game 1 in Florida. Ovechkin has never missed a playoff game in his career.

En route to the winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in team history, the Panthers scored a league-best 4.15 goals per game.

Led by a quartet of 30-goal scorers – Aleksander Barkov (39), Sam Reinhart (33), Anthony Duclair (31) and Jonathan Huberdeau (30G) – the Panthers are the NHL’s highest-scoring team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins. The 1995-96 campaign was, coincidentally, the last time the Panthers won a playoff series; the longest active drought in the NHL.

Despite suffering a 10-2 blowout loss in their regular season finale Friday in Montreal, the Panthers went 14-3-0 down the stretch, highlighted by a franchise-best 13-game winning streak.

The Capitals went 1-1-1 against Florida this season, with all three games played in November. Florida won their most recent meeting on Nov. 30, rallying from a 4-1 third-period deficit to win 5-4 in regulation. The Panthers led the NHL with 11 comeback wins after trailing at the second intermission.

“They’re an extremely fast team,” Eller said. “A lot of power up front, a lot of scoring capability. It’s going to be fun. They’re the best team in the league this year, so it’s a huge challenge for us, but I think our team can play a lot of [styles], whatever game is presented [to us], we can adjust and we can be successful.”

Catch every Capitals playoff game on 1500AM and be sure to download and subscribe to the Caps This Morning Podcast for more news and analysis with John Walton and Ben Raby

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