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D.C. CRAB: Capitals Roar Back in Third, Beat Panthers 6-5 in Overtime


As bad as the Panthers felt after getting skunked by the Capitals on Saturday night, Tuesday most definitely felt worse.

The good news was the Panthers picked up a point in the standings.

One never would have known that afterward by looking at Dale Tallon's angry face or the long blank stares from Peter Mueller and Dmitry Kulikov as they sat fully dressed in their locker stalls moments after Washington's Troy Brouwer scored early in overtime to give the Capitals a 6-5 victory.

Florida held a two-goal lead with just over five minutes left in regulation before giving it away. Scott Clemmensen -- who filled in for starter Jose Theodore -- gave up six goals on 29 shots.

"I think our composure is something we need to continue to work on,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "Feeling the pressure, we didn't respond well to it. Obviously you survive those sometimes. This is a tough loss.''

The Capitals have beaten the Panthers in consecutive games (winning 5-0 in Washington) and six of the past eight. In Washington's five-game winning streak against the Panthers, Florida has been outscored 21-8.

Florida grabbed just one of the available four points in the Washington home-and-home series -- as the last-place Capitals took all four.

Tuesday felt like it would be different. The Panthers fell behind 1-0 but never trailed again until Bouwer beat Clemmensen early in the extra frame.

Florida led 5-3 before Eric Fehr scored with 5:07 left; then it was Alex Ovechkin's turn as his goal tied the score with 2:49 remaining.

"We wanted to finish the job coming into the third and we were up two,'' said Jack Skille, who set up Florida's fifth goal. "We have to play smart, get pucks in. They did a good job creating some offense. We learned something valuable tonight. Hopefully next time we get a lead we come out strong and keep playing our hockey.''

Florida's 'Kid Line' of rookies Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore and 24-year-old Peter Mueller looked strong throughout the game as Huberdeau had a career-best two goals (both with help from Mueller) in the second period.

Shore's first NHL marker -- coming in the third period of Game 10 -- would have been the game-winner had Ovechkin not tied things up four seconds into Huberdeau's slashing penalty late in the third.

"They scored late in the third, took a bad penalty,'' Huberdeau said. "I thought we would have a chance in the overtime. But they scored. We just have to get back at it. .-.-. We have to be better defensively. We let go in the third of all the good things we did in the second. It's hard to accept this.''

The Panthers fell behind early Monday as Washington -- now with one win outside the District -- took the initial lead 4:26 in when Mike Ribeiro zipped a shot Clemmensen -- the only Florida goalie to beat the Capitals last year.

The Panthers bounced back in the first as they finally solved Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (five goals off 32 shots).

Down 1-0, Florida rattled off the next 11 shots and picked up two goals and the lead in the process.

Florida tied it when former Capitals forward Tomas Fleischmann fired a shot toward the net area after Filip Kuba stole the puck from Ovechkin. Fleischmann's shot hit John Erskine's skate and made a beeline for the net.

Moments later, Shawn Matthias got his second of the year by teeing off on a nice Marcel Goc feed just out of the slot.

Washington tied it early in the second only to have Huberdeau break it.

Defenseman Erik Gudbranson fired a shot from deep with the puck clipping the stick of Mueller and somehow finding Huberdeau as he moved in on Holtby.

Huberdeau, Florida's 19-year-old rookie winger, has five goals in 12 NHL games. Huberdeau wasn't initially credited with his first goal of the night as he barely touched the puck -- yet it found a way past Holtby to give Florida a 3-2 lead.

Later, Huberdeau scored a no-doubter by driving in on the Washington goalie and putting a pass from Peter Mueller into the back of the net for a 4-3 advantage.

With Florida holding a 4-3 lead, Shore picked up his first NHL goal by batting in a loose puck sent toward the cage by Jack Skille past Holtby.

"This was a tough loss. A tough loss,'' Dineen said. "We're going to wake up tomorrow and keep hitting this thing straight on and move forward.''

-- The Panthers defensive depth obviously isn't as good as the team hoped when they traded Keaton Ellerby to Los Angeles for a fifth round pick.

Assistant general manager Mike Santos said after the deal Florida hoped Ed Jovanovski's injured knee -- he's been out since getting hurt Jan. 29 in Tampa -- would be good enough so he could play this week.

Jovanovski, the Panthers say, is out through this week at least.

"It's hard for me to get into the exact medical nature of where Ed is aside from the timeframe and that's another week,'' Dineen said. "He'll be evaluated then.''

Tallon said the team hoped Jovanovski would begin skating sometime this week -- although he wasn't sure that would indeed be the case.