Saturday, January 8, 2011, 10:51 p.m.
By Joe Beninati
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It wasnt easy, but the Capitals managed to overcome an early deficit on their way to a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Panthers. One thing is for sure, Florida is not going to be a pushover for Washington this year the way they were last winter.
The Panthers play a very cautious style. They are not the highest scoring team in the world and they do not give up a ton of goals either. By keeping it close to the vest the Panthers can keep in touch with the leagues highest-scoring clubs.
The Caps have not been setting the world on fire in the goal-scoring department but they would get enough tonight.
Mike Santorelli quieted the DC fans with an early goal less than four minutes into the contest. While camped out in front, he had an easy tap-in but instead he pulled a deke to his backhand before sliding the puck past Semyon Varlamov.
The home team didnt put a lot of pressure on Scott Clemmensen, who was giving Tomas Vokoun the night off, in the first period. The shots on goal were extremely low, which required both goalies to keep their concentration.
Mike Green was fantastic tonight. His skating game is always strong, but this evening his puckhandling was especially good (aside from one turnover I can recall, he was pretty strong).
The All Star defender set up Eric Fehr for the game-tying goal in the second period. Green swooped behind the net and found Fehr at the top of the crease. Fehr broke free from his defender and roofed a snapshot.
The third period belonged to the Capitals, or at least it appeared that way. Mike Green gave the Caps their first lead with a backhand goal that came on the power play. It wasnt your traditional-looking power-play goal, but it counts for a group that can use all the help it can get right now.
Alex Ovechkin would score the eventual game-winner with a goal that came flying down the left wing. He began the night playing the right side on a line with Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich. By the end of the evening he was back with Nik Backtrom and Mike Knuble.
Ovechkin took the puck powerfully to the goal and beat Clemmensen with a quick snapshot on the glove side. The Green and Ovechkin goals came three minutes apart and it looked like all was safe in Washington.
Not so fast.
Evgeni Dadonov scored for the Panthers with less than two minutes to go to make it interesting. It became even more scary when Backstrom was sent to the penalty box. The Panthers would not convert with the 6-on-4 man-advantage. The Capitals penalty-killers have now snuffed out 29 straight shorthanded situations, and they secured the win this time around.
These two teams will rematch on Tuesday in Sunrise, Florida, as the Caps make their first visit to the Sunshine state. A difficult test awaits with the Panthers followed by the Lightning on Wednesday.