Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal -- Game 5: Panthers 5 - Capitals 3

The Washington Capitals had a chance to put the Florida Panthers on the brink of elimination, and when they went out to a 3-0 lead less than four minutes into the second period, it seemed a virtual certainty.  But the Panthers came back to score five unanswered goals and put the Caps on the brink with a 5-3 win as the series goes back to Washington for Game 6 on Friday.

First Period…

The Caps were awarded the game’s first power play in the seventh minute when Carter Verhaeghe was sent off for tripping at the 6:17 mark.  Washington converted less than a minute into their man advantage when Evgeny Kuznetsov fed John Carlson from the right wing wall.  Carlson fired the puck past a Panther defender, and T.J. Oshie managed to tip the puck down and past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky at the 7:09 mark to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.

The Panthers were awarded a power play of their own at the 12:14 mark when Nic Dowd was caught on an interference penalty.  The Caps killed off the penalty, allowing the Panthers no shots.  The Panthers appeared to score shortly after the power play expired, but an official blew a whistle well before the puck was put in the net, and after a review, the on-ice call of “no goal” was upheld, and the game remained 1-0. However, the Panthers went right back on a power play, John Carlson going off for cross-checking at the 15:08 mark.  The Caps killed off the Panther power play, Florida getting two shots on goal.

The Caps were put back on their heels thereafter, but goalie Ilya Samsonov kept his net clear of pucks, and the Caps went to the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.

-- Florida outshot the Caps, 14-9, and they out-attempted them, 25-16.

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had two shots, the only Capital with more than one.  Conor Sheary had three shot attempts to lead the team.

-- This game started with less hitting, or at least less credit for it, than any of the previous four games.  The Caps had 13 credited hits in the first period to 12 for the Panthers.

-- John Carlson led the Caps in ice time with 7:37; Connor McMichael had the least ice time with 2:03.

Second Period…

Florida dominated the early going, but the Caps notched the first goal of the period when the Panther defense backed off far enough to allow Kuznetsov to step up and fire a shot that Bobrovsky did not handle cleanly.  The puck settled in the skates of defenseman Aaron Ekblad, but Justin Schultz fished it out and snapped a shot from the top of the crease past Bobrovsky to make it 2-0, 2:12 into the period.

Washington went up three goals less than 90 seconds later when Connor McMichael fed Kuznetsov to lead a 2-on1 rush with T.J. Oshie.  Kuznetsov gained the zone and fed Oshie in stride, Oshie wasting no time in snapping a shot past Bobrovsky at the 3:38 mark to make it 3-0, Caps.

Florida got one back in the seventh minute when Carter Verhaeghe converted a long rebound off the end boards and tucked the puck past Samsonov at the post to make it 3-1, 6:50 into the period.

The Panthers inched to within a goal when the Caps got caught flatfooted on defense and Verhaeghe fed Patric Hornqvist for a breakaway.  Hornqvist converted the chance at the 12:27 mark.

Florida came all the way back just over two minutes later when Sam Reinhart collected the puck off a goal-mouth scramble and beat Samsonov to make it a 3-3 game, 14:41 into the period.

The Caps dug themselves a bit deeper when Dmitry Orlov was sent to the penalty box for slashing at the 15:15 mark.  The Caps prevented a tie-breaking power play goal when Aleksander Barkov was sent off for high-sticking Samsonov at 15:40 of the period.  The Caps could not score on the 4-on-4 or the abbreviated power play that followed, and the teams skated off, tied at 3-3 after 40 minutes.

-- Florida outshot the Caps, 15-10, in the period and out-attempted them, 22-17.

-- The hitting picked up in the second period, the Caps holding a 34-24 edge in credited hits through two periods.

-- Lars Eller led the team with four shots on goal through two periods; he, Justin Schultz, Conor Sheary, and Evgeny Kuznetsov all had four shot attempts through 40 minutes.

Third Period…

Florida broke the tie early in the third period, Carter Verhaeghe getting his second goal of the game and fifth in the series when he stripped Dmitry Orlov of the puck in the defensive zone, then sped down the ice to convert a feed from Aleksander Barkov past Samsonov’ blocker to make it 4-3, Panthers, 3:04 into the period.

Claude Giroux made it five unanswered goals late in the period by finishing another 2-on-1, Verhaeghe once more figuring in the scoring with the set up for the goal at the 15:55 mark.  That would end the scoring, the Panthers coming all the way back, and then some, for a 5-3 win and a 3-2 lead as the series heads to Washington one last time.

Other stuff…

-- Florida outshot the Caps, 38-31, and out-attempted them, 64-52.

-- Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie led the Caps with five shots on goal; Evgeny Kuznetsov had seven shots attempts to lead the team.

-- Martin Fehervary had eight of the Caps’ 48 credited hits in the game, while Lars Eller had seven.

-- Nic Dowd was the only Capital to win more than 50 percent of his faceoffs (9-for-15/60.0 percent).

-- Garnet Hathaway had four of the Caps’ 12 blocked shots.

-- Oshie (2-0-2) and Kuznetsov (0-2-2) had multi-point games, Oshie’s 19th career multi-point playoff game and sixth multi-goal game, Kuznetsov’s 15th career multi-point playoff game and ninth multi-assist game.

-- John Carlson led the team with 25:44 in ice time; Connor McMichael had only eight shifts and 6:22 in ice time.

-- The Caps killed off all three shorthanded situations they faced and are 16-for-16 killing penalties in this series, still the only team with a perfect record on the penalty kill in this post season.

-- Washington went 1-for-3 on the power play, making it 5-for-5 in games with at least one power play goal.  They are tied with St. Louis for third in power play efficiency in the postseason, both teams 6-for-20 (30.0 percent).

-- Ilya Samsonov stopped the first 20 shots he faced in this game but was just 13-for-18 over the rest of the game (.722 save percentage).

In the end…

By the end of this game, the Caps looked to be a team that has finally run out of gas.  They had chances and didn’t or couldn’t finish, while the Panthers seemed to convert every chance they had in the last 35 minutes of the game.  This was a “two-fer” sort of game, the Caps playing the game they wanted – heavy and at a deliberate pace – early, while the Panthers played in a style more to their liking, swarming on offense and pinning the opponent in their own end.  Now the series goes to a Game 6 in Washington, and unless the Caps can find a second wind and take control of the game and play in their comfort zone, a Game 7 would seem unlikely.