Late Push Not Enough; Florida Panthers Lose to Washington Capitals 4-3

USA TODAY Sports

Despite a spirited third-period push, the Florida Panthers injury-decimated and rookie-filled lineup couldn't hang with a hot Washington Capitals squad, losing 4-3.

Despite the ugly 4-0 lead the Florida Panthers managed to spot the Washington Capitals, this had the makings of a close game by the end. Had Florida decided to pass up some bad penalties and play a full 60 minutes, this could have just as easily been a Panther win. Instead, Florida struggled to get anything going offensively, and gave the Capitals' red hot powerplay a chance to win the game for them, which it did. Jacob Markstrom looked solid when his defensive corps actually helped him out, but the Panthers horrendous penalty killing ended up costing them the game.

Observations

  • Probably the biggest story of this game was the debut of Nick Bjugstad. Despite the ridiculously giddy feelings of adoration for Big Nick from the entire fanbase, his debut was pretty mild. It's going to take some time for Bjugstad to adapt to the NHL, and even longer for Dale Tallon and Mike Santos to surround him with healthy talent game in and game out.
  • Erik Gudbranson would get a game misconduct in the first period for hitting new Capitals forward Martin Erat from behind against the boards. It wasn't really a dirty hit from what I could see, but it's the type of hit that the NHL is going to punish people for anyway. Even if Gudbranson let up, which he did, you can't hit a moving body in the back numbers with his body square to the boards anymore and expect to not get much discipline. That goes doubly so for anyone wearing a Panthers sweater.
  • I wanted to go tear off the "A" on Filip Kuba's sweater after Ovechkin beat him like a red-headed stepchild in the second period in a one-on-one situation. Disgusting to watch the effort on Kuba's part, as he was caught puck-watching the entire play.
  • Braden Holtby's mom probably packs him an extra Lunchables whenever he plays the Panthers, because he definitely has enough time and space to eat two of them during a game. Whether it's the Capitals' defensive efforts or the anemic offense of Florida, Holtby barely gets challenged over the course of 60 minutes.
  • I feel bad for Kevin Dineen sometimes. It's almost like the refs just see him yelling, laugh a bit, nod and skate away. Poor guy.
  • Markstrom wouldn't really get much help from the team in front of him, often being asked to do the nigh-impossible and stop the Washington powerplay (which leads the NHL at a nearly 25% clip). After the fourth goal, Dineen would pull Marky for Scott Clemmensen... and then put Marky right back in after a commercial break. Dineen spent some time talking with Markstrom during his break, and whatever he said it seemed to confirm what the rest of us already know: a shaken Jacob Markstrom is still better than a confident Scott Clemmensen.
  • It was interesting seeing Scott Timmins out there after his little arrest fiasco in San Antonio. With his obvious lack of talent combined with his recent arrest, you'd think the Panthers would have just cut ties with the long-term prospect. I guess with the ridiculous set of injuries the Panthers do have, it makes some of these depth guys indispensable in the short term.
  • Scottie Upshall played chippy, throwing his body around and getting into it with much bigger players. For Upshall to be a valuable part of this team, or any team for that matter, he needs to play like that every game, getting under the opposition's skin and rattling their skill players. He's not going to score 20 goals in a season and he's not going to see more than third line minutes. So, with his limited exposure, he's gotta be more like a Matt Cooke. Agitate, chip in some secondary scoring, and don't fight.
  • Tomas Kopecky scored two goals tonight, putting him at 15 goals so far in this shortened season. His career high is 15 goals, and that was in a full 82-game season. Huh?
Up Next: The Cats are down to their final ten games, and the next one will see them hosting the Ottawa Senators at the BB&T Center tomorrow night. The Sens are somehow hanging around the playoff picture despite some major injuries, something the Panthers should look at as a litmus as to why they can't be doing the same thing. Don't forget the early start time tomorrow, as the game gets rolling at 6PM instead of 7:30PM.
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