Panthers enjoy early success against Neuvirth; defeat Capitals
Judging from the final score alone, you might conclude this game was a back-and-forth matchup with the Florida Panthers barely slipping past to win. The last part of that statement would be correct, but the game was anything but close until the final minutes. Florida dominated the first two periods against the Washington Capitals racking up leads of 3-0 and later 5-1 setting the stage for a Washington comeback that eventually fell short. This may sound alarming that Florida nearly coughed up a 4 goal lead, but I'll leave it at this; the Capitals are a team in an unfamiliar place with a new coach and behind in the standings. Eventually they'll need to take a stand, and what better time to wake up than when you're trying to climb back up the standings against the division leaders. The Caps have talent, Florida had their backup in net and drifted off in the third period. No one should expect Washington to roll over, and plus that; what's a Panthers game without excitement? The bottom line is that Florida now holds a commanding 7 point lead in the division and should have some key players back for the next game.
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1st: So much for the Tomas Vokoun Jose Theodore showdown, Vokoun would be benched in favor for Michal Neuvirth and Scott Clemmensen would fill in for a sick Theodore. Kris Versteeg would take an early cross-checking penalty, but the aggressive Panthers PK unit would keep Washington from setting much up. About a minute later Matthieu Perrault would take a high sticking minor when he hit Mike Santorelli up high, giving Florida their first powerplay of the night. With great puck movement comes goals, and it would be Stephen Weiss who would put the puck in the net after a deflection in front. 13 seconds later, Mike Santorelli would join in the fun with a harmless wrist shot from the perimeter that would find its way over Neuvirth to put the Panthers up by two goals. Blink and you missed it. At the midway point Bracken Kearns would light up Jeff Halpern along the boards and draw a penalty as John Erskine dropped the gloves to defend his teammate. Erskine would receive the 2, 5 and 10 for his mischief, Kearns would just receive a fighting major. The Caps would kill the penalty with Neuvirth having to make some big saves to keep the Cats off the boards. Florida would again go on the powerplay when Troy Brouwer interfered with a Panther, and with 45 seconds left in the PP Dmitry Kulikov would enjoy his first career three point night when he sent a lazer past Neuvirth putting Florida up 3-0. Mike Knuble wouldn't stand for it though, he'd answer with a slapshot past Clemmensen 40 seconds later. With about 5 seconds left Karl Alzner would blatantly hit Kulikov from behind for a checking from behind penalty. The period would end 3-1.
2nd: Florida would start the period on the powerplay but the Capitals would kill it off, but again Washington would go right back to the box with Dmitry Orlov slashing Tomas Kopecky's stick in half. With the second PP unit out, Jason Garrison would send a bomb towards the net, and Sean Bergenheim would give the Panthers another 3 goal lead with a wrap-around with Neuvirth out of position. About 10 minutes later Tomas Fleischmann would burn his former team when he'd send a beautiful no-look pass through 4 Capital players to a wide open Weiss who'd send it home into an open net. 5-1, still no Vokoun. With 20 seconds remaining in the period, Cody Eakin would get on the board after taking a sweet centering pass from Perrault to bring the score to 5-2 as the period came to a close.
3rd: Still without Vokoun, Washington would go on the powerplay with Mike Weaver in the box for hooking. Florida would be strong on the forecheck to keep Washington moving and would later kill off the penalty. Washington would attempt to get back into the action, but the Panthers defense kept shots to the outside and Clemmensen kept his rebounds covered. With 7:50 to go in the game, Brooks Laich would take advantage of a defensive breakdown and send the puck over the shoulder of Clemmensen. With Washington starting to heat up, Nicklas Backstrom would take a holding penalty to give Florida a huge opportunity to shut the door. The powerplay wouldn't account for much, but it would eat some valuable time from the clock. With 1:44 remaining Jason Chimera would narrow the lead to one after deflecting John Carlson's shot from the point. Washington would pull their goalie with a minute remaining, but that would be the extent of the comeback, Panthers win.
- Scary moment for Alex Ovechkin who'd take a puck to the face. Love him or hate him, never want to see a player htake a slapshot to the noggin.
- Sean Bergenheim is so cool.
- Three Panthers had a 3-point night; Weiss, Kulikov and Brian Campbell. 7 points for the defense combined, points for everyone but Erik Gudbranson and Ed Jovanovski.
- Wonder why Ovechkin never scores against Florida anymore? Answer: Mike Weaver, and Ovi hates him.
- 3 powerplay goals tonight, much of the recent resurgence can be accredited to the addition of Shawn Matthias to the second PP unit.
- Florida really prepares for having Scott Clemmensen in net. Clemm is 3-0 thanks to some mighty fine goal support from his team.
- Too bad we never saw Vokoun tonight. If Dale Hunter would have learned from Bruce Bourdreau's mistake we would have seen our old friend. Hey, if Washington doesn't want to establish a starter thats fine by me.
Up Next: The Bawhstan Brewins and that whole winning thing they've got going. Unfortunately for them, the Panthers aren't as hapless as the Maple Leafs.