Alexander Ovechkin became the first NHLer to reach 30 goals this season and added his 500th NHL assist to help the Washington Capitals beat the Florida Panthers by a 4-2 count at the BB&T Center.
The Panthers got off to a fast start, and after failing to capitalize on three early power plays, finally took the lead at the 11:02 mark when Denis Malgin and Jared McCann each worked the puck free in the Washington zone before Malgin took possession and fired it through Christian Djoos and goaltender Braden Holtby.
Ovechkin drew his 500th career helper with a pass from the point down low to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who threaded a cross-ice pass to Niklas Backstrom for a power-play goal with 2:35 left in the opening frame to tie the score.
Malgin lit the lamp again 6:40 into second period to put the Panthers back on top. The diminutive Swiss forward banged home Jonathan Huberdeau’s sweet backhand feed after Vincent Trocheck found Hubderdeau open in the slot.
The Capitals quickly countered with Ovechkin coming up with a nifty tip-in on Brooks Orpik’s shot from the point to knot the game at two a 1:11 later. Madison Bowery collected the second assist on the marker that gave the incredible Ovechkin his 13th consecutive 30-goal season.
Washington got the go-ahead goal from defenseman John Carlson with 2:22 left in the middle frame. The Capitals got the Panthers scrambling around in their own zone and eventually Kuznetsov slipped a pass under Keith Yandle’s stick to Tom Wilson, who quickly found Carlson open in the slot for a one-timer.
The teams combined for a whoopng 33 shots in the third, but the only goal came early when Andre Burakovsky gained the zone after taking a entry pass from Lars Eller and slid the puck across to an onrushing Brett Connolly, who ripped a one-timer past Harri Sateri with Aaron Ekblad off for tripping.
Holtby had a strong game for the Capitals, finishing with 32 saves to post his 25th win. Here, he makes back-to-back saves on Derek MacKenzie and Yandle with the Panthers on a late power play to keep the Capitals up by two.
The Panthers revamped its forward lines, but once again got stuck on two goals in yet another frustrating loss. Florida’s power play came up empty in the early going when they could have grabbed the game by the throat, and instead, the Cats had to settle for a 1-1 tie after twenty minutes. The Capitals outclassed the Panthers over the final two periods and are the one’s heading into the All-Star on a winning note while the Panthers do so riding a three-game losing streak.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Stars & Stripes
- Alexander Ovechkin joined Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as the only players in NHL history with 30 or more goals in each of their first 13 seasons. Ovechkin’s 500th NHL assist came in his 970th career game.
- Florida’s new first line of Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad had plenty of chances, combining for 12 shots, but came up empty with each skater posting a -2 rating.
- Denis Malgin’s two-goal game was his first in the league and came in his 74th game.
- In addition to his game-winning goal, defenseman John Carlson led all players with ten shots on goal as the Capitals piled up a season-high 46.
- Harri Sateri made his second career start and finished with 42 saves to help keep his team in the game.
- Keith Yandle played in his 680th consecutive game, passing Henrik Sedin for sole possession of seventh place in that department.
- Japers’ Rink has the other side of this one, which evened the season-series at a game apiece, with each team winning on the other’s rink.