The Capitals notched their third win of the season Saturday night and remain the only team in the Eastern Conference not to lose a game in regulation. After regulation and overtime finished with Washington and Florida still knotted at 1, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin all scored in the shootout, giving Washington its first shootout victory of the season and ninth consecutive home win against the Panthers. Backup goalie Justin Peters stopped Jussi Jokinen in the shootout to earn his first win as a starter for the Capitals.
“You’re in a one-goal game and you’ve got to manage the game correctly – not get too antsy and try not to do things that are not necessary for that situation,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said. “In the end, we got the two points. They don’t ask you how, just how many. We’ll take another two points.”
After dominating the first two periods, the Caps, who went ahead on Jason Chimera’s goal at 17:12 of the first period, still only led 1-0, leaving the door open for the Panthers in the final frame.
Florida, despite being fatigued from travel and back-to-back games, took advantage of the opportunity, tying the score with Brad Boyes’ power play goal 4:27 into the third period.
“I think we were better in two periods, but the third period there, maybe they felt like they had a chance there and they fight it out,” Backstrom, who appeared in his 500th career game against the Panthers, said. “That’s hockey. You’ve got to be able to score on your chances and put yourself up a little bit. But they came back and we got the shootout win.”
Overtime featured a raucous, pond-hockey style of play with Ovechkin and the always-fancy Jonathan Huberdeau trading chances at either end of the rink.
Another inconclusive regulation and overtime set up Washington’s third shootout of the season. Huberdeau dazzled on his attempt, sliding the puck behind a sprawling Peters. Kuznetsov and then Backstrom scored for the Capitals in the first and second rounds, leaving Peters to square off against former teammate and shootout specialist, Jokinen, who had a rare miss Saturday night.
Ovechkin, who has not had a particularly successful record in shootouts, went third, burying his attempt under the crossbar to seal a Caps victory.
“The D played a stellar game back there for us too and we kind of got the monkey off of our back with the shoot-out, which is nice,” Chimera said. “It was a nice way to win.”
Despite the disappointing outcome, the Panthers were happy to earn at least one point.
“Definitely a big point tonight,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Washington is a good team. They’ve played very well at home here at the start of the season. We didn’t have a great first two periods. We were okay, but not good enough, and then in the third, I thought we picked it up and we scored a power play goal at a good time and like I said, it’s a big point.”
Washington next plays Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. in Edmonton. The tilt against the Oilers is the first of a three-game road trip through Western Canada. Washington will return home to the Verizon Center to play Detroit on October 29.