Entering Saturday night’s play, the Washington Capitals had been out-scored by 16 goals in their 11 games so far this season and had lost by three goals on four occasions. Their two wins had come by a goal apiece. But in the club’s twelfth regular season game, the Capitals were finally able to breathe easy late in the contest and won 5-0 over the Florida Panthers as the last-place Capitals snapped a three-game winning streak.
“I felt a little better after the fifth one went in,” joked Capitals head coach Adam Oates.
Goals for the Capitals (3-8-1, seven points) came from Troy Brouwer – his fourth and fifth goals of the year – along with Joel Ward (fifth of the year), Alex Ovechkin (fourth) and Mathieu Perreault. Perreault centered Ward and Eric Fehr, a new combination for Oates. The line produced two even-strength goals in about 13 minutes of ice time and pinned the Panthers in their own zone on multiple occasions.
“Just looking for some sort of chemistry and try to find some offense through the lineup,” Oates said of the trio. “I’m still learning a lot of the players. And really, I thought Eric has played well and I wanted to try to get him some more minutes. And Mathieu came in and you know what, their line had a very good game.”
Brouwer’s second goal gave the Capitals the first multi-goal lead they’ve had in a game since Feb. 1 against Philadelphia. A power play marker, Brouwer received a pass from Capitals’ goalie Braden Holtby on the farthest blue line from Holtby and ripped a slap shot to the far side left to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead.
“He moves the puck as well as any goalie and for him to have the vision to see up the ice and to be able to make his pass is pretty special by him,” said Brouwer of Holtby. “In practice, he shoots the puck and passes the puck real well. Those aren’t plays that you try and plan so when he was able to make the play and get it all the way out and flat, too … it was good timing.”
Holtby had a 4.73 goals-against average and .857 save percentage in five games entering Saturday, but turned in a solid performance for Washington, turning away all of the 27 shots he faced. Holtby had allowed nine goals in 43 shots his last two games in net, both against Pittsburgh.
Holtby’s made a save on Kris Versteeg on a two-on-one in the first period that got Washington kick-started. “The first save was the big one, the two-on-one,” said Oates. “That is what we needed.”
On the other side, Florida’s netminder, Jose Theodore, didn’t fare nearly as well as his counterpart. Theodore was benched in the third period after Perreault’s goal, which was the fifth goal he had allowed in 21 shots faced. The Capitals entered the game ranked 23rd in the league with 2.3 goals per game.
The Capitals held a players-only meeting Friday morning. “We had a team meeting with the guys just to press the re-set button and to calm down and instead of over-thinking, just go out there support each other and make plays,” said Ward. … The Capitals Mathentered Saturday have killed off just 70.6 percent of opponents’ power plays. They held the Panthers to no goals in three power play opportunities. … The Panthers (4-6-1, nine points) ended a four-game road trip in Washington and will face the Capitals again on Tuesday in Florida.