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Cats vs. Caps: A History Lesson (Inception - 1997)

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The Washington Capitals are one of Florida's most frequent historical opponents.

This will be Florida's 113th matchup with the Washington Capitals, second only in frequency to the Tampa Bay Lightning (114 and counting). The Panthers have always had the Bolts number, with 136 points in those 114 games. They haven't always been as good against the Capitals (106 points).

The first ever contest between the two was on November 20th, 1993. The Panthers took a 4-3 decision despite Peter Bondra's two-goal performance, thanks in part to Brian Skrudland (one goal, one assist) and John Vanbiesbrouck (26 saves). It didn't hurt that Caps netminder Don Beaupre only turned aside 13 shots for a .765 save percentage on the night. Evgeny Davydov, Gord Murphy, and Brent Severyn also lit the lamp for the Cats that night. * Box Score

The Panthers would eventually go 2-2-1 against the Caps that first season, but none more fun than the home game on January 19th, when the Panthers got behind a four point night from Jesse Belanger (two goals, two assists) for a 5-1 victory. Bob Kudelski (two goals, one assist), Andrei Lomakin (three assists), Scott Mellanby (one goal, one assist), and Rob Niedermayer (two assists) also had multi-point games for the Panthers. Beezer was even better than he was the first time around, allowing just the one goal on 31 shots. * Box Score

In the abbreviated 1994-95 season, the Panthers only earned one win against the Caps in four tries, against two losses and a tie. On March 16th, Belanger again scored two goals, and 12 other Panthers earned one point each while Beez stopped 21-of-22 for another 5-1 win. Paul Laus had one of the assists, along with 30 penalty minutes courtesy of a rumble with Craig Berube. * Box Score

1995-96 would see the Panthers go 41-31-10 on the season, and earn a 3-1-1 record against the Caps. Each of the five decisions would end in one goal games, excepting of course the 2-2 tie on February 29th. On January 23rd, the Cats won 5-4 thanks mostly to a Johan Garpenlov hat trick. Gord Murphy had a goal and two assists, while Rob Niedermayer and Jason Woolley had two helpers each. Of course the Panthers went on to their most successful finish, winning the Eastern Conference that season. * Box Score

In 1996-97, Florida went 1-2-2 versus the Caps. Their only win came on November 7th, in a 4-2 home win. Tom Fitzgerald, Ed Jovanovski, Scott Mellanby, and Ray Sheppard scored for the Panthers, while Johan Garpenlov and Robert Svehla had two assists apiece. Vanbiesbrouck made 24 saves. Despite tanking against the Caps, the Cats still made the postseason with a 35-28-19 record * Box Score

We'll see the Caps again on January 4th - so tune in for another history lesson then.

Tonight's game is at 7:30PM. Stop by for a Q & A with Russian Machine Never Breaks around 3PM. Follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, and join the Game Thread tonight for the featured event.