|(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)|
Eric Fehr started the scoring in the second period as the Caps tie up the game at one off of some pretty passing by Mike Green and Mathieu Perreault. Green would find his scoring touch to put the Caps into the lead. Alex Ovechkin scared off some non-scoring demons with a classic Ovi goal that would put the Caps up by two and eventually be the game winner in the third.
Again, the Caps found themselves giving up the first goal after a breakdown in the zone and some smart passing by the Panthers. But the Caps would button up the defense and Semyon Varlamov would stand tall in net. He would make 25 saves on the night including turning away nine important shots in the second period. There were a few times the Panthers had the Caps down and out. With a little luck and Varly standing on his head at times, the Caps practiced bending but not breaking to perfection.
The Capitals just had to hold the line and allow their offense time to break out of their funk. Eric Fehr would be the benefactor of a Mike Green rush behind the net. Green threw the puck out front after cruising behind the net and found Fehr's stick. Fehr didn't have to put it top shelf on the awning net, but did anyway to tie the game at one in the second period.
In the third it looked as if both teams would stem each others offensive advances. But a tripping call on Michael Frolik mid way through the period would set up the Caps on the power play and it would finally pay off. After all the struggles on the power play, it would be Eric Fehr to shake a goal loose for the Caps as he carried the puck through the middle and found Green cutting in off the boards. He passed it to the defenseman that made a smart deke around the Panther defender before burying the puck past Steve Clemmensen for the Caps first power play goal since the Winter Classic.
Ovechkin would break his scoring slump after a misplay by the Panther defense. Once Florida got the puck deep, the Panther defenders were pinching in to keep the play inside the Caps zone. The game plan was working well for them until Nick Backstrom (another Cap struggling to find points) chipped the puck up to the wing to Mike Knuble. The Panther defense decided to pinch down on Knuble leaving Ovechkin open on the far wing.
Knuble would chuck it to the open Ovi who was breaking down the left side. In a classic move Ovechkin would pull the puck in then out to get the shot out. He had to snap it quickly as the Panther defense closed in on him just 15 feet out from the Panther net. The quick snapper beat Clemmensen low glove side to put the Caps up 3-1. It looked as if the Caps had the game at hand. But the Panthers did not exactly give up.
The very next shift, Florida pressured in front of the net nearly putting it in as the Caps defense let up. They would score after Varlamov would leave a juicy rebound in front and the Panthers jumped on the loose puck for the goal. It would make things interesting down the stretch. But what made it down right scary for the Caps is when Backstrom was called for a cross check with just 1:05 left in the game.
The Capitals penalty killers would do their job and secure the win. The PK was a huge bright spot for the Capitals as their power play has struggled. Tonight they were a perfect four kills for four shorthanded opportunities. The Panthers failure to convert on any of their power plays kept the Caps in the hunt for most of the game until Green's power play goal broke open the scoring in the third period.
The Caps will need to continue to plot the course when they face the exact same Panthers Tuesday night in Miami. The Caps need to keep the pressure on in the Southeast Division as they are fighting to take the lead. The Tampa Bay Lightning still have the lead in the division, just a point ahead of the Caps.
- Alex Semin was injured from a awkward hip check in the second period. He would not return for the remainder of the game. Speculation swirled around Semin re-injuring his back.
- This Alex Ovechkin's fifth game winning goal of the season. It is one goal more than he had last year at this time.
- Boyd Gordon is closer to rejoining the team after his staph infection in his foot. Boudreau expects to have the face off expert back in the line up in about a week.