|Eric Fehr celebrates his goal Saturday. (AP)|
The Capitals got off to an awful start. They were given a power play about a minute into the game, but were out of sync and took three offsides penalties during the man advantage, a mark of sloppy, undisciplined play. The Panthers capitalized right after the power play expired, as Mike Santorelli cashed a beautiful pass from Dmitry Kulikov in tight to take a 1-0 lead at 3:49. The Caps tried for the remainder of the period to mount offensive pressure, but were unable to, as were the Panthers, and the teams finished with a combined 11 shots in the first period. In the second, the Caps showed more life, attacking early and often on Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen, but where unable to penetrate for a score of their own. But the Caps broke through at the 5:32 mark of the frame when Mike Green took one of his patented rushes up ice and dangled through the Florida defense behind the goal and dished to a cutting Eric Fehr in front, who buried it for the Caps' equalizer, their first since the third period of the Winter Classic. As the second period began to wear on, however, the Panthers began to battle back, and applied extended pressure on the Caps end, with Semyon Varlamov making several good saves in tight on the Florida skaters. The second period ended without any further scoring, and the teams headed to their dressing rooms tied 1-1. In the third, the Panthers were on their heels as the Capitals continued to press for the lead goal. But their aggression took a sour turn when Mike Knuble was nailed for a penalty about halfway through the frame, leading to a Panthers power play. Varlamov stood tall with the penalty killers, and the Caps earned their power play during their penalty kill when Michael Frolik was sent off for tripping. Mike Green promptly created a play again, taking a pass from Eric Fehr and backhanding a power play marker past Clemmensen with about 8 minutes left to play. Alex Ovechkin extended the lead three minutes later, barreling down the wing and scoring a tremendous goal while falling to push the advantage to 3-1. But the Panthers would not go away, scoring with just under 2 minutes left with a pulled goalie off a scrum in front. Nicklas Backstrom then took a bad cross-checking penalty in the defensive zone, and the Panthers came oh so close to equalizing in the closing moments. But Varlamov stood tall and the Caps brought home the victory for their fans.
Mike Green was great again. 52 had an great assist, a clutch goal, and was also good defensively. He finished checks, blocked shots, and was all over the place in an excellent all around performance. If he can continue to play like this, the Caps are going to be in great shape for the long run.
Lightning struck. Meaning, Alex Ovechkin scored a goal that didn't go into an empty net. Ovie created well when he had the puck, too, in one of his better games in awhile. He even backchecked with more urgency than he usually does. Ovie really needs to get going, and this game was a step in the right direction for the Captain.
Semyon Varlamov is on one hell of a roll. The young Russian continued his recent run of stellar play, making 25 saves for the victory. He did not get rattled when the Panthers scored a late goal on him, as he has in the past, and made several good saves all game, but especially in the dying moments as the Caps protected a one goal lead. Michal Neuvirth will get another shot, but it probably won't be for awhile.
The Caps will likely have an optional skate tomorrow followed by practice Monday before they travel to Sunrise on Tuesday to take on the Panthers again. Game time for that one is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. More on Alexander Semin when/if it becomes available.