Unleashed in the East: Panthers hammer Conference-leading Capitals 5-2 in D.C.

Huberdeau's three-point night powers Cats past Caps

The Florida Panthers picked right up where they left off at the All-Star break, easily beating the Washington Capitals by a 5-2 count at Verizon Center. The win was Florida's fourth in a row and gave them a seven-point lead in the Atlantic Division.

After the Capitals failed to take advantage of a brief 5-on-3 opportunity, Jonathan Huberdeau opened the scoring at 10:43 off the first period, beating Philipp Grubauer from in close after taking a pass from Jaromir Jagr. Aleksander Barkov picked up the secondary assist on the play.

Barkov bagged a goal of his own 4:23 later while the Cats were enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage. With the Panthers buzzing the Caps net, Huberdeau got the puck in front to Nick Bjugstad and he fed Barkov with a sweet, no-look backhand pass for the tally.

The second period saw the Cats duplicate their first period production with another even-strength and power-play goal to go up by four after forty minutes.

Vincent Trocheck beat Grubauer with bad-angle, short-side shot from the right wing for his fifteenth goal of the season just 21 seconds into the stanza. Not to take anything away from Trocheck, but that's one Washington's young keeper would definitely like to have back.

Huberdeau picked up his third point, and tenth goal, with Jason Chimera in the box for boarding at 15:10. The Panthers' leading scorer froze Grubauer with a gorgeous wrist shot high over the glove after a nifty little pass from Reilly Smith. Bjugstad collected his second point of the night with the secondary helper.

After being held to no goals on 27 shots through the first two periods, the Capitals struck twice in the first 1:53 of the final frame to halve the deficit.

Nicklas Backstrom got the first goal, putting in a loose puck after Evgeny Kuznetsov's pass struck Erik Gudbranson in front to finally get the Caps on the board.

Kuznetsov set up Andre Burakovsky 1:17 later and he put the puck off Al Montoya's jersey and through his arm-hole to pull the Metropolitan-leading Capitals within two.

The Cats put the clamps down on the Caps after the outburst, limiting them to mostly run-of the-mill chances, mostly, for the rest of the way before Quinton Howden sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with 1:53 remaining in the game. Jussi Jokinen and Trocheck drew the assists on Howden's sixth of the campaign.

Montoya finished the game with 36 stops to raise his record to 8-2-1. The efficient Panthers beat Grubauer four times on only 18 shots.

The red-hot Cats will return home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Stars & Stripes

  • The win was Florida's first in the nation's capital since December 9, 2010. The victory snapped an ugly ten-game losing streak at Verizon Center.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau became the sixth Panther to register double-digit goals this season. The Cats have three others (Nick Bjugstad, Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Pirri) currently with nine. That my friends is depth...
  • Special teams played a huge part in the outcome of this one. Florida's power play went 2-for-4 while the PK killed off all eight of Washington's man-advantage opportunities. The penalty is now the fifth-best unit in the NHL.
  • Aleksander Barkov's two-point night gave him 33 points in 40 games this season. Barkov led the Panthers with four shots on goal; no other Cats' skater had more than two. And oh yeah, he also won 14-of-22 faceoffs.
  • On the other side, Andre Burakovsky fired a whopping ten shots on net. I guess you could say he earned his goal.
  • The Cats continue to scoff at the fancy stuff, but war-on-ice has the advanced stats breakdown for you here if you are so inclined.
  • NHL.com has a nice package of highlights that you can watch by clicking here.
  • Take a skate over at Japer's Rink to get their take on the dose of Capital punishment the Cats dished out last night./