The Florida Panthers cashed in on a power play in the waning seconds to edge the Washington Capitals 3-2 on a night that saw the local franchise honor the victims of the Parkland shooting in an emotional pregame ceremony that left fans and some players with tears in their eyes.
Maxim Mamim, playing in his eighth game, scored his first NHL goal 4:50 after puck drop to give the Panthers an early lead. After taking a deft pass from Mamim, Jared McCann made a nice play to get the puck back to Ian McCoshen at the left point. McCoshen’s shot’s deflected off of Colton Sceviour and Washington goaltender Braden Holbty before Mamim poked in the rebound.
The Capitals didn’t score on their only power-play opportunity of the first period, but they used it to build momentum that culminated in Lars Ellers goal with 1:05 left in the frame. Andre Burakovsky took a pass from Matt Niskanen and skated off the boards and into the middle of the high slot before firing a wrist shot that deflected off both Brett Connolly and Ellers, who was credited with his 13th goal.
Burakovsky got the only goal of the middle stanza to put the Capitals on top at the 9:56 mark. With Washington enjoying a man advantage courtesy of an interference call on Aaron Ekblad, Alex Ovechkin intercepted Mike Matheson’s weak backhand clear off the boards and found Burakovsky with a pretty pass in front. Burakovsky settled the puck down and smacked it into the top shelf past Roberto Luongo.
It didn’t look like the Cats would be able to solve Holtby, who finished with 30 stops and robbed Vincent Trocheck and Derek MacKenzie earlier in the game, a second time, but they finally broke through with 3:42 left in regulation when Aleksander Barkov gathered in a pass from Evgenii Dadonov in the neutral zone and carried past Ovechkin and John Carlson before centering to a driving Nick Bjugstad. The puck struck Bjugstad right skate and went over the goal line to even the score.
A late interference call on Ellers set the stage for Vincent Trocheck to play hero. After a Barkov faceoff win, the Panthers took possession and passed the puck around for a bit. Keith Yandle slid the vulcanized rubber over to Jonathan Huberdeau at the opposite point and his hard pass was redirected by Trocheck into the back of the net for the game-winner at 19:40.
The first game back after a long road trip is always tricky and this one was no exception, especially considering the circumstances. Florida started strong, but faded out in the latter stages of the first period and for much of the second. On a night where both the Blue Jackets and Islanders ended up losing, the Panthers came up with some much-needed late game magic to get the homestand off on the good foot and pull within five points off a playoff spot, with games in hand on both of those 65-point teams.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Stars & Stripes
- Parkland resident Roberto Luongo delivered a stirring pregame speech and then went out and made 33 saves to post his second win in three starts since returning from IR.
- After going through a 19-game goalless drought, Nick Bjugstad has scored twice is his last five outings. Bjugstad had a game-high six shots on goal.
- The Panthers limited Alex Ovechkin to five shots and one assist. Ovechkin failed to contain Aleksander Barkov on Bjugstad’s game-tying goal.
- Derek MacKenzie took two of Florida’s four penalties in the game. The captain put up the dukes with Brooks Orpik in the first period and was called for hooking in the third.
- Michal Kempny made his Capitals debut after being acquired in a trade with Chicago on Monday. Kempny let Mamim get loose for his first-ever goal and finished with a -1 rating.
- Keith Yandle played a game-high 26:27 and drew his 30th assist of the campaign on Vincent Trocheck’s 23rd goal.
- The Panthers took the season series two games to one, so you can do some japing over at Japers’ Rink.
Condensed Game (courtesy of NHL.com)