CAPITALS 3, PANTHERS 2
WASHINGTON – When coach Pete DeBoer was asked about Washington's public comments on its offensive problems of late, he just chuckled.
The Capitals have guys like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Washington may not be scoring like it used to, but with that kind of talent, it'll come back. The Panthers wished they had that kind of a problem.
“That’s like the rich kid complaining he only got five presents at Christmas,” DeBoer said.
Washington didn't solve all of its problems on Saturday, but got third period goals from Ovechkin and Mike Green to send the Panthers to their third straight loss with a 3-2 win at Verizon Center. These two play again Tuesday in Sunrise. Ovechkin has scored three goals in his past five games – his best stretch since the first month of the season.
“We had some chances to score, had some golden opportunities that we just didn't bury,'' defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “Their guys scored. Other than that, we played well. They have a lot of offense, but we did a good job on them.''
The Panthers were coming off a depressing 5-3 loss to Carolina on Friday and were playing their fifth game in seven days. Florida didn't look too slow, however, in the early goings as Mike Santorelli – benched during the third period of Friday's game – put the Panthers on the board less than four minutes into the game with a sweet backhanded shot off a Dmitry Kulikov pass.
Florida had ample chances to add to its lead, with the Panthers missing two prime shots at an empty net during the first period. Backup goalie Scott Clemmensen kept the Panthers in it, but it was just a matter of time before the Capitals struck. Florida shutout the Caps 3-0 here last month.
“They play hard,'' said Eric Fehr, who tied the score in the second when he popped the puck into the net from his perch in front of the crease. “They are one of the fastest teams we play all season. They played very well and didn't want to give us a whole lot. We had to earn the win.''
The two played an even third but when Michael Frolik got called from tripping with 7:15 left, the Capitals pounced and got a goal from Green as he backhanded a shot from the slot. Ovechkin got a highlight goal with 3:55 left when he passed himself the puck off the side board and charged in on Clemmensen from center ice. Bryan McCabe tried to slow him down with his stick, but Ovechkin kept his stick on the puck and even after being tripped up, was able to put the puck in the back of the net.
“That team, if you make a mistake, they make you pay,'' DeBoer said. “You see the guys who scored in the third period? Green and Ovechkin. That's the story right there. Those are game-changing players who delivered in the third when they needed to.''
Down, but not out, the Panthers made a late charge and pulled to within one with 1:37 left after Evgeny Dadonov scored. Florida pulled Clemmensen and held a two-man advantage in the final minute after Backstrom was called for cross-checking. The Panthers had a few good shots but couldn't solve the hot Semyon Varlamov and headed back to South Florida with a disappointing defeat.
“We've got to win these games,'' David Booth said. “You can't make excuses about the schedule. Everyone goes through this. It's no different for us. We can't feel sorry for ourselves.''
-- Washington played without Semin (18 goals, 17 assists this season) in the third period after he and Steve Bernier collided. Semin came out for his final shift of the second but stayed behind to start the third.
DeBoer made a tough decision during the second intermission of Friday's game. Even though his team was tied with Carolina going into the third – and they were in the midst of four games in six nights – DeBoer went with a short bench as he put three forwards on the pine for the third period.
Mike Santorelli, who had been on the ice for both of Jeff Skinner's second period goals, was benched as was Rostislav Olesz. Steve Bernier, who committed a penalty in Florida's offensive zone, was also shelved although he got a garbage shift once the game was decided late in the third.
“With depth guys, there has to some accountability,'' DeBoer said. “They are there to do the right thing when you’re playing with the lead. You look at video, you talk, then you go to other means. I expect them to respond the right way.''
All three were back in the lineup Saturday, although with Chris Higgins out (undisclosed 'lower body' injury), weren't playing alongside each other any more. Santorelli tried to make up for Friday early on, scoring Florida's first goal 3:49 in.
“I just wanted to bounce back, have a good game,'' Santorelli said.
-- Keaton Ellerby was recalled from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday as a precaution in case Bryan McCabe couldn't play. McCabe suffered an undisclosed injury during the first period of Friday's loss but continued to play. He was in the lineup Saturday as Ellerby sat out. It appears that Ellerby is headed back to Rochester.
Ice Capped: Washington Gets Goals from Green and Ovechkin in Third, Outlast Panthers 3-2
CAPITALS 3, PANTHERS 2