By Joe Beninati
These guys sure know how to make things interesting. There are times when a team thats incredibly talented can tip-toe through 40 minutes of a game and manage to steal it in the end. This was one of those.
The Caps were far from perfect in the 1st period again. The Panthers had three days of rest to prepare for this divisional rivalry and they definitely had the better skating legs early.
The goal by Michael Frolik capped a pretty passing play in a tight amount of space. The backhand by Dominic Moore was a knuckler that fooled Michal Neuvirth, who turned in another uneven performance in net for DC.
Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun made two strong stops on Alex Semin to protect the lead. Vokoun looked like he was going to be tough to crack, but thankfully he became vulnerable in the middle period.
The Panthers have not been very good protecting two-goal leads all year, so when Jason Chimera scored in the first 20 seconds of period two the visitors gained a lot of life.
Neuvirth struggled on a Stephen Weiss slapshot and was not comfortable on Gregory Campbells backhand, which prompted Bruce Boudreau to make a change. One night earlier the coach was trying to protect Neuvirths confidence in Tampa, but tonights hook was based upon sub-par performance. As it turned out, Jose Theodore would be a hero before the night was complete.
Brian Pothier has had several strong outings against Florida this year. He was in the right place at the right time to convert in the second.
Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom led the charge in the final frame. The Capitals were the far superior team in that period as the Panthers big lead evaporated under the pressure.
Theodore was perfect in regulation and made two huge stops on semi-breakaways in overtime to get the Caps into a shootout. Dont forget the great defensive play from Tyler Sloan in OT to break up another potentially game-ending 2-on-1.
From there the guys showed a great deal of composure. Ovechkin failed on Washingtons first chance to win it in round three. Then Brendan Morrison and Brooks Laich scored on their penalty shots when a miss by either guy would have meant a loss. The stage was set for Tomas Fleischmann to beat his fellow Czech countryman which sent the Caps home happy.
It wasnt pretty, but winning doesnt always have to be.