Vacation is over for the Florida Panthers.
No more strolling Duval Street in Key West, tanning in the Bahamas or jamming in the Nashville honky tonks.
“There are a lot of guys who were on vacation and didn’t practice,’’ Jaromir Jagr said after three Panthers and coach Gerard Gallant took part in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Nashville.
“We’re starting from zero I guess.’’
Never miss a local story.
Tuesday, the Panthers get back to the task at hand as Florida kicks off its final stretch by visiting the Washington Capitals — the top team in the Eastern Conference — in a game nationally televised on NBC Sports Net.
The Panthers, who are five points up in the Atlantic Division, have 33 games left as they make a run for just their third postseason berth since 2000.
“We need to get the right mind-set right away,’’ said Roberto Luongo, who won’t play Tuesday.
“These are all important games down the stretch. We don’t want things to slip away.”
The Panthers have earned three of the available four points against the Caps this season, but haven’t fared well in the nation’s capital lately.
Florida has lost 10 consecutive games at Verizon Center, its previous win coming on Dec. 9, 2010 when Tomas Vokoun made 36 saves and the Panthers got goals from Michael Frolik, Steve Bernier and Mike Santorelli.
Since 2010, Washington has won 13 of 14 home meetings between the two.
Florida, however, is playing its best hockey in years if not decades.
The Panthers have won their past three games and are 21-6-1 since Thanksgiving. One of those wins came against the visiting Capitals.
“Things have been going well for us the past few months and we want to keep it going,’’ Gallant said. “We always talk about it’s not about what we did our last two months, but what we do in our next two months.
“We all know what our goal was at the start of the season. We have 33 big ones left. We have to win our share of them to get into the playoffs. It’s not about getting 90 points; it’s about getting into the playoffs.”
Washington will be minus some of its star power as Alex Ovechkin is suspended for Tuesday’s game for skipping the All-Star Game.
The Capitals will also rest leading Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby as both teams will bring out their backup goalies. Florida will rest Luongo as well, with Al Montoya getting the start against Washington for the third time this season.
Luongo has yet to face the Capitals this year.
“I’m saving it for the playoffs,’’ he quipped.
Washington coach Barry Trotz said he has been impressed with the Panthers and the job general manager Dale Tallon has done building the roster up through the draft.
“He cropdusted the first and second rounds the past couple of years,’’ Trotz said. “People in Florida should be very excited. ... They are one of the great up-and-coming teams.”
Trotz had a lot of good things to say about defenseman Aaron Ekblad, saying the top pick in 2015 is growing into a superstar.
“He’s going to be not only the face of the Panthers, but of the league,’’ Trotz said.
Said Ekblad: “That’s very sweet of him, he’s one of the better coaches to ever coach. Those are kind words. It’s an honor.”
JUST HAVING FUN
Jagr may have been a reluctant member of the All-Star team but once he got to Nashville, seemed to enjoy himself.
“We weren’t even sure he was going to be on the plane Thursday, so that was a nice surprise right off the bat,’’ Luongo said.
Saturday, Jagr was one of the stars of Saturday’s Skills Challenge as Montreal’s P.K. Subban came out for his breakaway competition dressed as Jagr complete with a flowing wig. After Sunday’s game, he didn’t rule out a return perhaps next year in Los Angeles.
“You never really know what’s going to happen,’’ Jagr said. “We’ll see. I said before I wanted to stay home to practice for the next 30 games. But this was fun, no doubt about it.”
No one thought Jagr would dog it once on the ice but both Gallant and Luongo seemed taken back by how much Jagr put into Sunday’s game.
Jagr scored in the first period — he is in a seven-game slump, not scoring since Jan. 10 — and was working hard defensively in the championship.
“He back-checked hard twice and I’m going to use that video for our games,” Gallant said.
Said Luongo: “He doesn’t even do that in Florida. I might have to have a chat with him on the flight home.”
Tuesday: Panthers at Capitals
When, where: 7:30 p.m.; Verizon Center, Washington
TV/radio: NBCSN; WQAM 560, WMEN 640
Series: Washington leads 60-46-9
Scouting report: The Eastern Conference-leading Capitals have won seven of nine and went into the break with an overtime loss to the Flyers. The Panthers are 1-0-1 against the Caps this season, with both games played in Sunrise and with Al Montoya in net.