The phrase "must-win game" is thrown around a lot in professional sports, but one could argue that Wednesday's game between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers was one. With a win, the Caps would pad their lead in the Southeast Division to three points, while a Panthers win would give them the division lead. In Sunrise Wednesday, Florida was the one that ran off into the sunset with a 4-2 win and the Southeast Division lead.
Mikael Samuelsson scored twice for the Panthers, including the game-winning goal on the power play in the third period. Stephen Weiss gave Florida a 3-1 lead at 9:52 of the third when he knocked the puck into the net with his shoulder as he was falling. The referee originally signaled for no goal, but after a review, it was overturned.
John Carlson cut the deficit in half with just over two minutes left, but Shawn Matthias' empty-net goal sealed the victory for Florida.
Brooks Laich scored the other goal for Washington, who with the loss, fell into ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The Caps finished 1-1-1 without Alex Ovechkin during his three-game suspension. He returns to the lineup Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.
Just 33 seconds into the period, Samuelsson carried the puck through the neutral zone and fired a snap shot from just over the red line. The shot caught Neuvirth by surprise and it slipped past him. Samuelsson's 88-foot goal was his fourth of the season.
Laich tied the game at 11:15 thanks to an impressive individual effort. Laich took a feed from Karl Alzner down low, spun off several Panthers, turned around and fired a top-shelf wrist shot past Scott Clemmensen for his 10th goal of the season.
Florida is outshooting Washington 24-18. Scott Clemmensen has made 17 saves, while Michal Neuvirth has stopped 23 shots of his own.
The Washington Capitals played Tuesday. The Florida Panthers have not played in over a week. Yet, their respective energy levels are the same as the Caps and Cats are scoreless after 20 minutes.
The Caps came out firing and hitting; their 11 shots on goal have them on pace for their most since December 7 (44), while they are outhitting the Panthers 13-3. Despite that, the Panthers are holding their own with 15 shots. The best chance, however, came late in the period when Jeff Halpern tipped a Jason Chimera pass, but it hit the inside of the post behind Scott Clemmensen (11 saves).
Fresh off a 4-3 overtime loss in Tampa Bay to the Lightning, the Washington Capitals will get right back to it, squaring off against the Florida Panthers on the road on Wednesday night. The game will be broadcasted on CSN+ starting at 8 p.m.
The game is a key one for both teams, with Washington currently holding a one-point lead in the Southeast Division standings. The Capitals have that one-point edge thanks to making it to overtime against the Lightning. The Panthers, meanwhile, will be playing their first game since the All-Star break.