Sergei Bobrovsky was very strong over the first two period, stopping 23 of 24 shots while his mates got finally got the offense revved up after another slow start. Bobrovsky only had to face three shots in the third as the Panthers completely dominated the final frame,
Aaron Ekblad got a little lucky when he opened the scoring with 3:40 left in the first. Ekblad took a crossing pass from Barkov and drove a shot off Martin Fehervary’s hockey pants that bounced off the ice and up and over a helpless Vitek Vanecek. It was Ekblad’s first career playoff goal.
Florida’s hard forechecking paid off again 1:38 later when Barkov won a puck to Anthony Duclair and he handed it off to Huberdeau, who displayed some absolutely filthy moves before setting up Barkov for the put-away from in tight. What a goal!
The Capitals got their only goal 2:44 into the second with Radko Gudas off for roughing. Niklas Backstrom scored from a sharp angle after Bobrovsky failed to seal off the near post properly. The assists on the power-play marker went to Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson.
Mason Marchment quickly restored Florida’s two-goal advantage when he took advantage of a technical miscue on Vanecek’s part, solving him five-hole with his stick out of the way from the right circle after taking a short pass from Brandon Montour. Claude Giroux got the second helper on the goal which came just 27 seconds after Backstrom’s tally.
Marchment would take not one, but two stupid penalties at 5:58 and the Cats kill came up huge by dealing with the double-minor. Bobrovsky was able to make two stops on Ovechkin with the first of the two being the much more difficult.
Later in the period, Verhaeghe picked off a weak clear by a Lars Eller and sent the puck to Anton Lundell, who worked a back and forth passing play with Sam Reinhart before finishing the 2-on-0 situation off for his first career playoff goal. Lundell became the seventh Florida rookie to score a playoff goal.
Verhaeghe took a head-man pass from Gudas and burst into the Washington zone before ripping a wrist shot by Vanecek’s glove as the defense closed in on him in the high slot. The goal came at the 17:32 with Gustav Forsling drawing the secondary assist.
After the impressive display of offense, the Panthers absolutely suffocated the Capitals in the final stanza, completely controlling the puck and forcing Vanecek’s replacement, Ilya Samsonov to make 17 saves to keep the margin at four. Now, that’s how you finish off a playoff game. The series will shift to Washington for the next two games starting with a Saturday matinee for Game 3.
Stars & Stripes
- First Star Aleksander Barkov posted his third career playoff multi-point performance. Only Jonathan Huberdeau and Stu Barnes (with four) have logged more. Barkov’s 16 career playoff points are tied for the fourth-most in club history.
- Gustav Forsling led the Panthers with 21:08 of ice time. His +4 rating is the highest in a single playoff game in franchise history. Forsling is +6 through the first two games of the series.
- Sam Reinhart’s assist on Anton Lundell’s goal was his first career playoff point. Reinhart was credited with three shots on goal, a hit and a block.
- After playing a solid Game 1, Vitek Vanecek got the hook after the second period after surrendering five goals on 19 shots.
- Anthony Duclair’s helper on Barkov’s goal was his first career playoff point and came in his eighth postseason game. The Duke was held without a shot for the second straight game.
- Although he had a game-high five shots, the Cats were able to keep Alex Ovechkin from lighting the lamp again.
- For the other side of Game 2, head over to Japers’ Rink.