|Alexander Semin broke out more magic tonight for the win.|
The Capitals got off to a good start, as their first chance came inside the first minute when Mike Knuble got good wood on a rebound in front; however Scott Clemmensen was able to deny him with a nice pad save. But the Panthers got a good chance soon after, when a long shift in the Capitals zone led to a scrum in front of the net that required Michal Neuvirth to make a nice save of his own. The Panthers continued to get some good chances, but again Neuvirth was there with two nice saves to keep the game scoreless. The Panthers pressure payed off at 7:20 when Boyd Gordon was sent off for tripping, sending the Panthers to the first man advantage of the game. Despite a few close calls, the Capitals were able to kill off the penalty successfully. After the midpoint of the period, though, the Capitals began to get some good chances when the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Knuble set up a solid forecheck, but were unable to convert. As the period continued, that line got another chance, this time off the stick of Mike Knuble in front, but again they were unable to beat Clemmensen and draw first blood. Predictably, it came back to bite them, when a Dennis Wideman turnover led to a 2 on 1 break, and Bill Thomas converted for a 1-0 lead at 15:03. But just like the Blues game, the Capitals came right back to equalize, as Nicklas Backstrom fired a one-timer home off a great pass from Alex Ovechkin at 17:16. The Panthers attempted to come right back, though, and almost did, as it took an amazing diving stop my Michal Neuvirth to keep them from jumping out to another lead just a minute later. The remaining minute and 40 seconds passed without incident, and the first period ended with the teams tied at 1.
Both teams got some pressure early in the second period, but it was the Panthers who got a break first as Tyler Sloan was boxed for elbowing at 2:36, sending Florida to their second power play of the game. Again, however, the Capitals were able to kill off the penalty with relative ease, and began a sustained attack of their own. Their sustained forecheck bore many good chances, but Clemmensen made two great saves to keep the Capitals off the board again. However, John Carlson killed the Washington momentum when he took bad retaliation penalty at 6:47; that gave the Panthers their third consecutive man advantage. The Panthers got some solid opportunities on their power play again, but once more, Washington was able to shut them down. Right after the expiration of the power play, Ovechkin and Alexander Semin broke free on a 2 on 1, but botched it horrifically, as Semin threw an awful pass at Ovechkin instead of shooting. However, it didn't matter, as Boyd Gordon buried a rebound from a John Carlson slapshot barely 20 seconds later, giving the Caps the lead at 10:02. The Capitals then continued to press, and drew a penalty when David Booth was sent off for a slash at 11:32. But once again, Washington utterly wasted their power play, getting little zone time and no good shots. Florida then began to come at the Caps, but Michal Neuvirth again was there with two nice stops to keep the Panthers off the board. The Panthers continued to press, and drew another penalty when Karl Alzner tripped David Booth at 17:39. But once more, Neuvirth and the penalty killers stood tall, and killed their fourth consecutive man-down situation. The remaining 21 seconds expired without incident, and Washington headed to the locker room up 2-1.
The start of the third period saw the Capitals get off to a good start, getting a sustained forecheck early and a couple of solid scoring opportunities, but Clemmensen's glove denied the Capitals twice. Washington continued to press, but again the Florida defense held strong, and the Panthers began a counterattack; however, Neuvirth again made a flashy glove save to keep the Panthers from drawing even. Florida continued to come at the Capitals as they tried for their equalizer, and came close a few times, but again, Michal Neuvirth stood strong and was able to fend off the Florida attack as the period continued. But the Panthers kept coming inside of nine minutes remaining, and got several open shots and good looks against the Capitals defense, keeping Washington on their heels. With the Panthers pressing full tilt, John Erskine then took a questionable tripping call at 16:17, sending the Capitals to yet another penalty kill. But after only 39 seconds of penalty killing, Dennis Wideman took another bad penalty, sending the Panthers to a 5-on-3 advantage. It only took Florida 27 seconds to cash in on that, as David Booth knocked in a rebound at 17:24 to tie for the Panthers, sending the 4,000 people in attendance into a "frenzy." But the Capitals then had to kill off the rest of Wideman's penalty, which they did, but were not able to stop the Panthers' offensive blitz, and Michal Neuvirth had to make an amazing glove save on Sergei Samsonov to secure a point for the Capitals, as regulation closed tied 2-2.
In overtime, the Panthers got a good chance first, but off the rebound, Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson broke up ice on a 2-on-2 rush. And this time, Semin made no shenanigans with the puck, ripping a shot off a great pass from Johansson past Clemmensen for the win; the goal came only 48 seconds into the extra frame.
Michal Neuvirth once again was the story of the game for the Capitals, as this was his fifth win in his last six starts and his fourth in a row. He moved throughout his crease effortlessly (again), was square to the puck all night (again), and used his glove to save his defenses' bacon on multiple occasions (again). He's been an absolute rock of late, and the Capitals can attribute their recent surge in large part to him. He'll start tomorrow.
The second line of Semin, Arnott, and Laich did not have a very good game at all. They were on the ice for zero shots for as a unit, and seemed to be struggling all night to find the rhythm that made them so effective in the Capitals' last two games. I'm not particularly worried, because it's just one game. What I am worried about, though, is that Bruce Boudreau is going to pull the trigger on this line a lot sooner than he should. Please, Bruce, don't split up Arnott and Semin. They really do work well together.
Boyd Gordon had himself an excellent game - he won eight faceoffs, blocked four shots, and scored what should have been the game winning goal in 13:30 of ice time. As the case always is with Gordo, he worked very hard all over the ice and put the team before himself as well, which the Capitals need in these close, critical, season-ending games. A round of applause for 15 tonight.
The Capitals are right back at it tomorrow night, as they will put their recently claimed Southeast Division supremacy on the line in Tampa Bay. That game, which is sure to knock your socks off, is scheduled for 7 P.M., and a preview can be found here.