Alexander Ovechkin notched the game-winning goal with 4:43 left in regulation time and added two assists to power the Capitals. The win put them one point behind Philadelphia, who currently holds down the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Brad Boyes scored twice for the Panthers, including the marker that tied the game at four midway through the third period.
Washington jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich. Brouwer's goal came on a Caps power play set up by a Tomas Fleischmann tripping penalty.
Flash redeemed himself late in the period by getting the Panthers on the board with his sixth of the season. It was Fleischmann's first goal since December 17th, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jesse Winchester and Marcel Goc picked up the helpers.
Boyes scored his first of the night just 40 seconds into the second period, from Sean Bergenheim, to forge a 2-2 tie.
Niklas Backstrom beat Tim Thomas three minutes later to give the Capitals the lead back.
Brouwer would connect again on the power play, with 47 seconds left in the stanza to give Washington its second two-goal lead.
The scrappy Cats would mount another comeback in the third. Drew Shore slapped home a power-play goal 8:01 into the period to cut the deficit to one. Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski collected the assists on Shore's fifth.
Boyes tied the game up 1:22 later from Bergenheim and rookie Nick Bjugstad, who took over first line center duties with Aleksander Barkov out of the lineup. Boyes rapped his own rebound past Braden Holtby for goal number seventeen.
Ovechkin played hero, and kept the Panthers from capturing at least a point, by taking a pass from Laich and one-timing it over Thomas' shoulder for his league-leading 41st goal of the season.
After twenty days off due to the Olympic break, it's not surprising that the teams played a game that featured nine goals. Honestly, if the Panthers are going lose games down the stretch, I wouldn't mind seeing them filling the net while doing so. A big win for Washington, who are right in the thick of the playoff chase, and another disappointing loss for the Panthers (they have now dropped six of their last seven), who seemed destined to pick in the top five at the Entry Draft. The Cats need to tighten things up if they plan on collecting any points on their upcoming three-game road trip.
Odds & Ends
- Not the best of nights for Tim Thomas, who surrendered 5 goals on 32 shots. Thomas did make a jaw-dropping, highlight reel stop on a Mike Green breakaway chance right before Ovie potted the winner.
- The Panthers penalty kill got off to a slow post-Olympics start by allowing the Capitals to convert on both of their opportunities in the game.
- Washington has taken nine of the last ten from the Cats. Glad we are seeing less of these guys nowadays.
- I wasn't real happy (or surprised) to see Dylan Olsen scratched. The Panthers need to do something, like maybe rotate one of the veteran defenseman out every game, to allow him to play. He looks like part of the future, so he shouldn't be sitting in the press box. Get him back out there and paired up with Erik Gudbranson again. This seems like short-sided thinking from a coach that may not be here next season.
- How about that Drew Shore kid? Five goals in last 10 NHL games, and another 5 goals in last 9 AHL games. Shore is absolutely on fire right now. Wow, who would have thought...
- Big night for Brooks Laich, who like Ovechkin, posted a goal and two helpers. Laich only had 9 points on the season coming into the game.
- The Panthers power play, which finished 1 for 6, had three chances after Boyes made the game 4-4, but failed to come through in the clutch yet again.
- For some more capital punishment, head over to Japers' Rink for their take on last night's action.