The Washington Capitals were looking for any sort of offense after their shutout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday. it took almost the entire game, but the Capitals found their offensive spark in a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers Saturday at Verizon Center.
A sloppy first 20 minutes didn't help either team, but the Panthers took advantage of the Capitals' lackadaisical play to score the game's first goal on the game's first shot. A defensive breakdown in the defensive zone gave David Booth an open path to Dmitry Kulikov in the slot. Kulikov drew Semyon Varlamov out of the crease and found Mike Santorelli open in the crease for the tic-tac-toe goal at 3:49.
After a slow first period, Washington finally got on the board at 5:32 thanks to Eric Fehr, who scored his third goal in three games. Mathieu Perreault passed to Mike Green on an odd-man rush. Green faked a shot and wrapped around the net, finding Fehr right in front. Fehr would lift the puck over Scott Clemmensen for the top-shelf goal. Coincidentally at the time, Fehr had Washington's last three goals; he scored the last two goals of the Winter Classic and the Caps were shutout Tuesday.
"First 10 minutes was a sleepy game," Alex Ovechkin said. "End of the second we just wake up and then play better and pressure their defense because they were tired. In the third period we play better than second."
The Panthers dictated the pace of the third period's first 10 minutes, getting several quality scoring chances, but the Caps turned things in their favor at the midway point. Fehr returned the favor at 13:07 by setting up Green on the power play to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead. Fehr found Green on the right faceoff circle and sent a pass his way. Green deked to his backhand and beat Clemmensen with a low shot to give Washington the lead for good.
But the scoring wasn't done for either team. First, Ovechkin returned to the goal-scoring side of the scoresheet at 16:05 in vintage fashion. Ovechkin found an opening along the left boards and sprinted towards the net. Ovechkin finished the shot despite being knocked airbourne for his 15th goal of the season.
Florida responded just 2:18 later to cut the Capitals' lead back to one. Evgeny Dadonov scored his third goal of the season on a rebound from Booth. Florida would pull Clemmensen in favor of the extra attacker and would soon earn a two-man advantage after Nicklas Backstrom took a cross-checking penalty. The Capitals would survive 1:05 down by two men to secure the victory.
"With the way we're playing right now, we've got to stay patient," Fehr said. "We have to play defensively and make sure we're not giving [the opposition] any odd-man rushes or easy opportunities."
The Capitals will see the Panthers again Tuesday in Sunrise to complete the home-and-home. In the mean time, the Capitals are just happy to be back on the scoresheet.
"Just to get the lead in the third period was like a breath of fresh air," head coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You come off of a shutout and it seems you're never going to score and every goal you get is such a difficult goal. You wonder if you're ever going to score again."