The Washington Capitals took to the ice on Monday night for
the fourth game in their five-game home stand, this time hosting the Florida
The Caps and Panthers met
three times earlier this season, the Caps winning all three by a combined 13-5
The Panthers came into this game
a different team than the one that won the Southeast Division in
The problem was that so far
this season the Panthers were not seeing their way to playing hockey in extra
Last season the Panthers earned 32
standings points in games that went past 60 minutes (7-18).
So far this season they had a meager 2-2
record in extra-time games, and the lack of the Bettman Point contributed to
their last-place position in the Southeast Division.
The Panthers did not look like a struggling team in the
first period, though. Goalie Jose
Theodore was sharp, denying Nicklas Backstrom from point-blank range and
fighting off a Mathieu Perreault breakaway in the game’s sixth minute.
The Panthers used Theodore’s early acrobatics as the basis
for grabbing momentum as the period wore on to the half-way point, then to take
the lead when Tomas Kopecky took advantage of a turnover in the Caps’ end,
snapping a loose puck past goalie Michal Neuvirth’s blocker at 9:55 for his
seventh goal of the season.
Florida doubled their lead less than four minutes
later. With Nicklas Backstrom in the
penalty box serving two minutes for high-sticking, Tomas Fleischmann walked out
from the left wing corner. With the Caps
looking for Fleischmann to pass, the ex-Capital kept coming and backhanded the
puck high over Neuvirth’s blocker to make the score 2-0 at the 13:31 mark.
Florida could not add to that total in the last six minutes
of the period, but the Caps could not make a dent in the lead, either, and the
teams went to their locker rooms with the Panthers holding that 2-0 lead and
holding an 8-7 edge in shots on goal.
In the first period the Panthers took two minor penalties,
but did not suffer any damage as a result.
The third power play for the Caps, though, was the charm. Shawn Matthias took a cross-checking penalty
at the 1:46 mark of the second period, and the Caps made the Panthers pay half
a minute later. Nicklas Backstrom took
his time surveying the defense from the right wing wall and took advantage of a
hole in the Panther penalty-kill to find Alex Ovechkin on a one timer from the
edge of the left wing circle to put the Caps on the board at 2:15.
The goal started a deluge for the Caps. At 3:22 Mike Ribeiro tied the game when he
converted a goal-mouth centering feed from Brooks Laich through Theodore’s
pads. Less than a minute later Ovechkin
gave the Caps the lead when he circled out from the left wing circle and used
Panther defenseman Ed Jovanovski as a screen to beat Theodore with a wrist shot
Panther coach Kevin Dineen tried to stem the Caps’ momentum
by switching out goaltenders, Scott Clemmensen in for Theodore. Then, the Panthers caught a break when Brooks
Laich went off 1:25 after the Ovechkin goal for an elbowing penalty. But the Panthers not only could not convert
the power play chance to tie the game, but allowed the Caps a shorthanded
goal. A loose puck along the boards
eluded defenseman Brian Campbell and skittered into the neutral zone. Jason Chimera beat everyone to the puck and
skated in alone on Clemmensen. Chimera
did not choose to deke the goalie, opting for a low wrist shot that handcuffed
Clemmensen on the blocker side. The Caps
had their fourth goal in a span of 3:29.
That led to the next bit of entertainment, a bout between
Matthias and the Caps’ Troy Brouwer right after the ensuing face-off. The fight might have blunted the Caps’
momentum, but the damage was done. The
Caps went to the locker room with a 4-2 edge.
Although both teams had good chances to score – Kris
Versteeg hitting the crossbar early in the period and Ovechkin being denied a
hat trick when he rang the pipe at the nine-minute mark, neither team could
manage to score in the third period. The
period – and the game – ended as the period began, with the Caps maintaining
their 4-2 lead and winning their third game in four tries on the five-game home
Capitals 4 – Panthers 2