The Florida Panthers opened the postseason with a frustrating 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals last night at FLA Live Arena.
Up a goal in the third, and seconds after a missed icing call, MacKenzie Weegar inexplicably carried the puck into the path of Alex Ovechkin, who poked it away resulting in a breakaway goal for Evgeny Kuznetsov that tied the game at twos at 8:14.
An off the mark, rink-wide pass (that wasn’t supposed be) and a lack of subsequent proper backcheck by Claude Giroux, led to Washington’s game-winner 2:23 later, as Dmitry Orlov sent the turnover the other way and Niklas Backstrom found T.J. Oshie open in front and redirected the puck by Sergei Bobrovsky.
Lars Eller clinched it with an empty-netter from long range with 49 ticks left on the clock.
The Panthers have not tasted victory in the opening game of a playoff series since April 17, 1997 when they beat the New York Rangers 3-0 at Miami Arena. This is a big part of the reason why they keep flaming out in the postseason.
The Cats got off to bad start, falling behind when Tom Wilson scored a power-play rebound goal from Anthony Mantha and Justin Schultz at the 3:47.
A busy Bobrovsky finished the frame with 16 saves to keep the Capitals from adding to their lead before Sam Bennett went end-to-end to even things up with a bullet of a wrister at 17:55 with the assists going to Radko Gudas and Carter Verhaeghe.
The Cats forged ahead 43 seconds into the second when Vitek Vanecek couldn’t handle a high slapper from Brand Montour and Giroux was able to get the rebound to go with a nifty skate-to-stick maneuver.
Unfortunately, the Panthers were unable to solve Vanecek, who finished with 30 saves, a third time and were done in by self-inflicted wounds in the third.
Florida will need to be much better in Game 2 if they want to get back on track in this series, which is already looking a lot like the other series they’ve lost in recent memory. Not at all the start we wanted to see after such an amazing regular season.
Stars & Gripes
- The Capitals rallied in the third period to win a playoff game for the 20th time in their history and first since their Stanley Cup-clinching win during Game 5 of the 2018 Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.
- The Panthers wasted a quality start from Sergei Bobrovsky, who finished with 34 saves on 37 shots.
- Aaron Ekblad played a team-high 24:11 in his return to the lineup. Ekblad registered two shots on goal and two hits.
- Gustav Forsling led the Cats with a plus-two rating and three blocked shots. He posted a +41 rating during the 2021-22, the highest in one season in club history.
- In addition to his assist, Anthony Mantha put five shots on goal and was credited with a game-high ten hits.
- Ben Chiarot and Jonathan Huberdeau led Florida with five shots on goal each while Sam Reinhart, Anton Lundell, and Eetu Luostarinen skated in their first NHL playoff game.
- For more on Washington’s Game 1 rally, visit Japers’ Rink.