Nick Bjugstad nets goal, assist as Panthers fall to Capitals
WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz has appreciated his team’s resiliency.
Sunday’s game provided another example.
Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist and the Capitals rallied from a 2-1 second-period deficit to earn a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers.
The Capitals improved to 10-1-3 in their past 14 games, and avoided a letdown after their 3-2 win against Chicago in the Winter Classic.
"We don’t get flustered as much as we did earlier in the year," Trotz said. "Early in the year our highs were very high and our lows were low … (now) there’s not too many highs or too many lows.
"We just say `hey, things are going to happen, let’s just get the momentum back, let’s get the next one, let’s go.’"
Brooks Laich and Karl Alzner added second-period goals for Washington, which has won 10 straight home games against the Panthers, and Braden Holtby made 29 saves.
"All the big boys are scoring goals. Holts is playing great, and we are getting some help from the guys who don’t typically score goals," Alzner said after notching his career-high third goal of the season.
Nick Bjugstad had a goal and an assist for Florida, which also got goals from Vincent Trochek and Dylan Olsen.
Roberto Luongo, who was involved in a scary first-period collision with Ovechkin, stopped 18 of 21 shots in the first two periods before giving way to Al Montoya.
"It was a mutual decision to keep me out for precautionary reasons, so nothing more than that," Luongo said.
Luongo came out to challenge Ovechkin for a loose puck and the pair collided, with Ovechkin’s upper arm hitting Luongo’s head. Luongo remained down on the ice for a couple of minutes.
The Panthers fell to 1-1 on their six-game road trip and have lost three of four.
"We weren’t good enough. I mean we battled back and found a way to come close there at the end, but not good enough," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.
The teams had split their previous meetings, both shootouts, including the longest in NHL history (20 rounds) in Florida’s 2-1 win on Dec. 16.
After Ovechkin’s 19th goal of the season, on a power play, made it 1-0 at 1:16 of the second period, the Panthers responded with a two goals in 85 seconds.
A collision involving three Capitals at the Florida blue line resulted in a two-man breakaway for Trocheck and Jussi Jokinen. Holtby stopped Trocheck’s initial shot and Willie Mitchell’s rebound attempt before Trocheck converted to tie the score.
The Panthers took a 2-1 lead at 5:22 when Olsen’s wrist shot deflected in off a Capitals defender.
Laich pulled the Capitals even with a slap shot from the left circle at 12:13. And with 54 seconds left in the period, Alzner scored when his shot from just inside the blue line beat a screened Luongo, making it 3-2.
"We are doing a lot of the right things and playing sometimes a boring style of hockey, but it’s a winning style of hockey and it’s way more fun playing that way for us," Alzner said.
Andre Burakovsky, a rookie seeing his first action on the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, scored his fifth goal of the season when he corralled a loose puck in the slot and beat Montoya at 5:42 of the third.
"He was playing with two big stars and he didn’t look intimidated," Trotz said of Burakovsky.
Washington killed off a 47-second 5-on-3 Florida power play midway through the period.
Bjugstad made it 4-3 with 1:59 remaining, but Florida couldn’t get the equalizer.
NOTES: Luongo came in 15-1 in his past 16 starts against Washington. … The game was delayed briefly in the third period as Holtby and officials searched for a lost puck in his uniform. … No. 1 pick Aaron Ekblad had an assist, giving him 22 points on the season, a rookie record for Florida defensemen.