There were seven minutes remaining in the third period Tuesday night and things looked bleak for the Capitals. The youngsters in the line-up for Florida were making all the news, and it appeared as if the home team was going to avenge its Saturday shortfall in D.C. But the Caps had plenty of fight left. Enough for an exceptional late rally and the overtime win.
The Caps were the last team in the Eastern Conference to earn a road victory and this decision would never come easily the way the first meeting with the Panthers did three days ago.
The Washington power-play is on a hot streak at the moment, and it stayed rather warm when Mike Ribeiro scored the opening goal of the game.
Tomas Kundratek made a move through defenders and looked up in time to see Ribeiro parked in the slot. Mike didn’t get a lot of force on his shot but it was enough to elude Scott Clemmensen in goal for the Panthers.
Florida did not score Saturday against Braden Holtby, but that would not hold them back tonight. Tomas Fleischmann put a turnaround shot toward the goal that was headed way wide. Unfortunately it struck Caps defender John Erskine and banked past the startled Caps netminder.
The Panthers would hold the lead after one period thanks to a wicked one-time shot from Shawn Matthias that beat Holtby to the blocker side.
The second period would feature four more goals split evenly between the two teams.
Off a set play on a face-off, Karl Alzner stepped in from the point and ripped a slapshot over the shoulder of Clemmensen at the 5:33 mark.
Not more than three minutes later Florida would respond thanks to 19-year old Jonathan Huberdeau. An Eric Gudbranson slapshot was double deflected, first by Peter Mueller and then by the prized rookie to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
Matt Hendricks, playing on a top line with Ribeiro and Alex Ovechkin, would score next with a well-placed backhand over the glove of Clemmensen.
It might have been easier on the Caps coaches’ nerves if the score was tied at 3-3 after two periods, but that would not happen.
Huberdeau was roaming around the crease when he tapped in another goal from linemates Mueller and Drew Shore. The Panthers had the lead back and that line was not finished on the scoresheet.
Shore would score his first goal in the NHL at 6:25 of the third period. It was a goal that was batted in by the rookie’s stick and needed video review from Toronto to confirm. Shore definitely had his stick below the height of the crossbar, so it was a good goal, even though we thought for a moment that an official’s whistle might have blown the play dead before the puck entered the cage.
That could have been all she wrote, but the Caps were resilient.
Mike Green spotted Eric Fehr cruising though the slot area in front of Clemmensen. Fehr made a clean tip-in of the pass and the Caps had life with 5:27 to go in regulation.
A penalty against Huberdeau would turn out to cost the Panthers dearly and in no time flat. Nicklas Backstrom and Ribeiro won the offensive zone face-off back to Ovechkin, who walked in from the point and overpowered Clemmensen with a patented wrist shot only four seconds into the man-advantage. The Caps power-play clicked for the seventh time in its last 14 chances.
The guests would have some penalty-killing to do before regulation time expired and they managed to do the job which carried over into the first 15 seconds of overtime.
Once Mathieu Perreault was set free, the game-winning sequence took place. Backstrom made an exquisite pass to send Troy Brouwer in behind the Panther defense. Clemmensen made the initial stop, but Brouwer would not be denied. He tapped the rebound under the Panther goalie to win the game after only 32 seconds of play in overtime.
It was a remarkable end to an entertaining game. Now the Caps make their way north to Tampa to tackle the Lightning Thursday on Comcast SportsNet.