The Caps were looking to go a game up on the Panthers, who tied the series at a game apiece in Game 2 with a convincing 5-1 win. Despite allowing the game’s first goal in this contest, the Capitals returned the favor and dominated in a 6-1 win to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Florida wasted little time victimizing Ilya Samsonov in goal, who was replacing Vitek Vanecek, who started the first two games of the series. Jonathan Huberdau broke the seal on the game when he skated down the left side and snapped a shot past Samsonov’s glove, a shot that looked of the savable kind. Florida on top, 1-0, at the 2:45 mark.
Washington was awarded the game’s first power play when Eetu Luostarinen was gated for holding with 6:53 gone in the period. The Caps failed to record a shot on goal in the man advantage and remained down a goal.
The Caps went a man short late in the period when Anthony Mantha took a cross-checking penalty at the 17:30 mark. The Caps escaped further damage, allowing one inconsequential shot, and ended up with a power play chance of their own after the Florida man advantage, MacKenzie Weegar going off for holding the stick at 19:27 of the period. T.J. Oshie made the Panthers pay with just 9.2 seconds left in the period when he set up shop in front of Bobrovsky just in time to redirect an Alex Ovechkin shot from the right point to get the Caps on the board. The teams went to their locker rooms tied, 1-1.
-- Washington outshot the Panthers, 12-9, in the period and out-attempted them, 22-15.
-- Nicklas Backstrom had three shots on goal and four attempts to lead the team in both categories for the period.
-- The Caps were credited with 21 hits in the period, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson with four apiece.
-- Washington needs better faceoff performance from their top centers – Backstrom was 1-for-4, Evgeny Kuznetsov was 0-for-4.
Martin Fehervary took a tripping penalty 2:42 into the period to give Florida their second power play of the afternoon. The Caps killed off the penalty, allowing a single shot on goal. The Caps, however, went right back to the penalty kill, Justin Schultz going off at 5:01 for interference. The Caps killed off this one as well, again holding the Panthers getting a pair of shots on goal.
The aplomb with which the Caps killed penalties was rewarded when Anthony Mantha cut through the left-wing circle and tried backhanding the puck past a Florida defender and on goal. The puck was rerouted to Marcus Johansson, who calmed the bouncing puck just enough to lift a backhand shot over Bobrovsky from the 4ight-wing circle to make it 2-1, Caps, 9:51 into the period.
Washington had a chance to add to their lead when they were given their third power play of the game, Anthony Duclair sent off for interference at the 11:45 mark. The Caps failed to score on their only shot on goal with the man advantage, and it remained a one-goal game.
It became a two-goal game when Trevor van Riemsdyk got on the board late in the period. Anthony Mantha got the play started with effective forechecking, then feeding Nicklas Backstrom as he was tripped to the ice. Backstrom’s shot attempt was foiled, but the puck skittered to Marcus Johansson at the goal line extended to Bobrovsky’s left. He fed van Riemsdyk in the left-wing circle, and he fired a shot past a pile of Panther defenders and Bobrovsky to make it 3-1, 18:49 into the period.
The Caps got a late power play when Anthony Mantha and Sam Bennett mixed it up after a whistle. Mantha and Bennett were assessed coincidental roughing penalties, but Bennett got an extra two for tripping at 19:34 of the period. The Caps did not convert on the first 26 seconds of the man advantage but would have the remainder carrying over into the third period with fresh ice.
-- Florida out-shot the Caps, 13-7, in the period and out-attempted them, 34-11.
-- Hitting has been a thing in this series, the teams combining for 66 hits through two periods. Ovechkin led the team with six through 40 minutes.
-- John Carlson led the team with 14:50 in ice time through two periods; Connor McMichael was at the other end with 4:42.
-- T.J. Oshie was 5-for-7 on faceoffs through two periods.
The game went uneventful – a good thing for the Caps – until Jonathan Huberdeau was penalized for interference at 8:52 of the period. Alex Ovechkin made them pay when he took a Conor Sheary feed from the other side of the ice without a Panther defender in sight and one-timed a shot under Bobrovsky’s blocker to make it 4-1, 10:25 into the period.
John Carlson added an empty net goal from below his own goal line at the 15:40 mark to make it 5-1.
The Caps went to another power play when the Panthers were whistled for too many men on the ice. The Caps applied pressure but did not solve Bobrovsky on the man advantage. The Caps did add a cherry to the top of the sundae, though, when Garnet Hathaway converted a rebound of a Johan Larsson shot at 19:18 of the period to close out the scoring in the Caps’ 6-1 win.
-- The Caps outshot the Panthers, 31-30, while Florida out-attempted the Caps, 65-51.
-- Nicklas Backstrom led the Caps with five shots on goal and six attempts.
-- Anthony Mantha recorded his first career multi-point playoff game (0-2-2), fourth of eight career playoff games with points.
-- For the third straight game, the teams combined for more than 90 hits (94 in this one). Alex Ovechkin, Lars Eller, and Garnet Hathaway had six hits apiece among the 44 credited to the Caps.
-- Dmitry Orlov and Nick Jensen tied for the team lead in blocked shots (three apiece).
-- Nicklas Bacstrom had his 29th career multi-point game (0-2-2) in the postseason, his 17th on home ice. The Caps are 20-9 when he posts multi-point games in the playoffs.
-- This was Marcus Johansson’s tenth multi-point playoff game of his career (1-1-2), sixth with the Caps. Washington is 6-0-0 when Johansson had a multi-point game in the postseason. He has five goals in those six games.
-- John Carlson led the Caps with 23:12 in ice time; Connor McMichael had 7:59.
-- Ovechkin had a whopping 9:17 in power play ice time, tenth-highest total of his career.
-- Ilya Samsonov stopped the last 28 shots he faced after allowing his only goal, to Jonathan Huberdeau, on the Panther’s second shot of the game. He stood tall and was a wall when the Caps needed it. It was his first career postseason win.
In the end…
This has to rank among the most complete games the Capitals have played in the postseason in recent memory. Even allowing the first goal, they were the dominant team, and being a veteran group, they did not let that early goal interfere with their strategy of wearing the Panthers down. This series has been characterized by a lot of hitting, and whether or not you find “hits” an arbitrary statistic, a little too dependent on the official scorer, this does not impress us as an area where the Panthers want to trade high volumes with the Caps. Whether the Caps can take advantage of their physical edge, not to mention Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s sudden vulnerability, will be keys in Game 4, even if a lot of eyes will be on Sansonov to see if he can cobble together two superior efforts.