The Washington Capitals gutted out a 3-2 shootout win against the Florida Panthers Saturday night, their second victory in as many games without captain and reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin. Michal Neuvirth turned aside 31 shots and stopped Jonathan Huberdeau in the shootout to record his second win of the season and pull the Caps to a .500 record. The Capitals have now won all six shootouts played under head coach Adam Oates.
Unfortunately for the Caps PK, even though they stifled the Panther’s first five power plays of the game, Tomas Fleischmann’s late power play marker stopped Washington’s perfect, three-week penalty killing streak at 35.
“A lot of luck involved in that, but a lot of good jobs by a lot of guys,” Oates said of the phenomenal streak.
It was a also a milestone night for the Caps as John Carlson recorded his 100th point in the NHL with his first goal of the season. Caps forward Michael Latta notched his first career NHL point with the first assist on the goal.
Finishing up their first back-to-back series of the season, the Caps acknowledged that they weren’t playing their best hockey.
“The rhythm was off when you get a lot of penalties, a lot of PK,” Caps center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Tonight was an ugly one. I think Neuvy played great and kept us in this game.”
Oates did note, however, that the Panthers, whom the Caps have dominated, posting a 17-4-1 record against since the 2009-2010 season, are actually a tough team to play against.
“Their record is not indicative of how good they play,” he said. “They skate really well, they’ve got a lot of crafty guys.”
While the Capitals weren’t happy with the amount of penalties they took, and still need to tighten up their game, securing four out of four possible points without Ovechkin in the lineup is an accomplishment.
“You don’t want to miss anyone in your lineup, let alone your star,” Oates said. “But it proves that your team is still a solid hockey team.”
The Capitals opened the scoring at 16:41 of the first period when Eric Fehr found Nicklas Backstrom skating through the slot. Backstrom, who cleanly won the faceoff that preceding the goal, snapped a wrist shot past Scott Clemmensen for his fifth goal of the season. A Washington turnover led to a partial breakaway and goal for Panthers forward Jesse Winchester at 8:20 of the second period, but John Carlson answered just 36 seconds later with a top-shelf marker off the rush, his first goal of the season and 100th career NHL point. Ahead by one with less than four minutes in the third period, Steve Oleksy took an ill-timed slashing penalty.
“That’s a very undisciplined penalty,” Oates said of the play. “You can’t have that.”
Tomas Fleischmann scored on a hard angle shot on the ensuing power play to force an extra five minutes. After a scoreless overtime, the Capitals were able to win in a shootout, with Mikhail Grabovski, Brooks Laich and Nicklas Backstrom all scoring.
While both teams displayed some pretty nifty moves in the shootout, the highlight most likely to be replayed and tweeted by national media will be Krys Barch pulling out his tooth in the penalty box and pretending to toss it to a fan. Barch was following what seems to be a growing self-dentistry trend in the NHL.