Had to give you something...
Never completely out-classed, the Panthers admittedly struggled to maintain pace with Washington, who played a "disciplined" game (gonna stay off of that subject) and simply showed their superior legs, even absent defenseman Mike Green (who left early due to an undisclosed inkury) and some apparatchik named Ovechkin (who appeared to be enjoying some BAC corn of the popped variety in the press box).
Tonight's Key Points:
Panthers offense was unable to set up. Ever. This was major, as every shot they threw at Washington goaltender Jose Theodore realistically never had a chance to get through. Legs and sticks were everywhere. The Caps are proficient at blocking shots and the Cats - though active with the puck - had almost no chance to score unless a higher being intervened. Even minus their absolute best, Washington is a Really. Good. Club.
The officials "won" this game. No, they didn't, but it certainly appeared they might have been on that track, with a small number of no-calls; heck...Florida didn't have a power play until the third period. A heroically-squandered five-minute-major against Shaone Morrisonn proved the Panthers have a few miles to tavel on the way to enlightenment.
Washington's "D" is underrated. This is the big one. Outside of Green, no one gives the Capitals a whiff of respect at the blueline, myself included. Once more, minus their best, the team steps it up, forcing observers to wonder if they had indeed lost anyone from the core. Bruce Boudreau and his staff can coach.
Despite Panthers showing up, nothing was going to work. Every move Coach Pete DeBoer attempted in order to break the pattern, Washington had a counter-move. The Cats weren't embarrassed by any means, but they were drilled by the reality of their divisional rival's elite status.
Let's do it again tomorrow, kids. Kudos to the Caps for a well-played chess-match. Can the Panthers turn it around on Verizon Center ice? Tune in at 6pm for the Live Blog.