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Capitals continue home dominance over Panthers with 4-3 win

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Luongo hurt; power play putrid as Cats drop another in The District.

Aaron Ekblad set a new club record with 22nd point of the season.
Aaron Ekblad set a new club record with 22nd point of the season.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers came up short again in funky Chocolate City, falling 4-3 to the Washington Capitals in the second of their six-game road trip. It was Florida's tenth straight loss at the Verizon Center, making the District of Columbia seem more like District 9 to the suddenly struggling Cats.

Despite getting outshout by an 8-4 margin, the Panthers survived another a slow first period start to get to the dressing room with scored tied at zero. Matt Niskanen had four of the Caps shots and rang another off the cross bar. The opening frame featured a scary collision between Alexander Ovechkin and Roberto Luongo as both were going for a loose puck. Luongo shook off the hit, but would leave the game after forty minutes for "precautionary reasons."

A hooking call on Dave Bolland at the end of the first put the Capitals on the power play to start the second and they grabbed the lead at the 1:16 mark when Ovechkin converted a slick backdoor pass from Niklas Backstrom for his 19th goal.

After a three-man pile up at Panthers' blue line, Vincent Trocheck and Jussi Jokinen had a 2-on-0 breakaway on Caps keeper Braden Holtby. Holbty made a couple of fine stops before Trocheck finally put the puck into the net to tie the game.

The Cats took the lead a 1:25 later on Dylan Olsen's second of the season. Olsen took a sweet dish from Shane O'Brien and went top shelf on Holtby, thanks in part to a deflection off of defenesman Brooks Orpik. The assist was O'Brien first point as a Panther. Nick Bjugstad also picked up a helper on the play.

Washington evened the game later in the frame when Brooks Laich blasted a shot through some legs past Luongo at 12:19 and regained the lead with 54 seconds left in the period on Karl Alzner's wrist shot from the blue line.

Al Montoya came in at the start of the third in relief of Luongo and surrendered the eventual game-winner to rookie Andre Burakovsky at 5:42. Montoya finished the period with four stops.

The Panthers ended up launching 14 shots at Holtby in the final frame, but could only post a late Bjugstad goal from a tough angle, with assists going to Aaron Ekblad and Bolland, at 18:01 to cut the deficit in half.

Florida's power play finished the game 0-for-5, including a failed 5-on-3 opportunity midway through the third.

Stars & Stripes

  • Aaron Ekblad set a new club record for points by a rookie defensemen (22) with his third period helper. Ekblad finished with five shots on goal, including one that got lost in Braden Holtby's pads, delaying the game for a spell.
  • Roberto Luongo made 18 saves in his forty minutes of action, Holtby finished with 29 stops to post his 18th win.
  • The Cats have not tasted victory in D.C. since December 9. 2010. The win gave the Capitals the season series after the teams split shootout decisions in the first two games.
  • In addition to bagging his 8th power-play goal of the season, Alexander Ovechkin picked up an assist on the game-winner and finished with 3 hits.
  • Nick Bjugstad is heating up again. The big center has 5 points in the last 5 games.
  • The loss kept the Panthers two points behind Toronto for the final wild card berth in the east. The Cats have three games in hand on the Buds.
  • For more on the game pay a visit to our friends over at Japers' Rink.