Capitals slip past Panthers 3-2 in shootout

For a weekend at least, the Washington Capitals adjusted nicely

to life without Alex Ovechkin.

With their star forward out for a second straight night with an

unspecified upper-body injury, Washington won its second game in a

row with a 3-2 a shootout victory over the Florida Panthers on

Saturday night.

After Tomas Fleischmann forced overtime with a game-tying,

4-on-3 goal with 2:38 left in the third period, the Capitals

recovered with shootout tallies by Mikhail Grabovski, Brooks Laich,

and the clincher by Nicklas Backstrom.

After Laich’s shootout score on Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen,

which appeared to come as he lost the puck, Washington goalie

Michal Neuvirth made the biggest of his 31 saves, catching Jonathan

Huberdeau’s attempt with his glove. Backstrom then ended it with a

clean shot to the left side.

”Tonight was an ugly one,” Backstrom said. ”Neuvy played

great and kept us in the game.”

Neuvirth finished with 31 saves. Clemmensen had 21.

One of the players most relieved by Backstrom’s deciding shot

was defenseman Steve Oleksy (seven blocked shots), who committed

the slashing penalty that paved the way for Fleischmann’s goal. The

score ended Washington’s string of successful penalty kills at 35,

with five coming Saturday night

”You can’t have that. Steven knows that. You can’t lose your

cool,” Washington coach Adam Oates said. ”Fortunately, the

shootout bailed him out.”

Florida lost its fifth straight, but showed improvement from its

listless 4-0 loss Friday night at home to St. Louis.

”I think we stepped in a good direction tonight,” Fleischmann

said. ”We played like a team, pretty good all 60 minutes and I

think that’s how we get our two points next game.”

Ovechkin had scored 10 goals in 12 games before he was hurt in

the first period Monday at Vancouver. The Capitals have outscored

opponents 10-2 without him, but Saturday’s win wasn’t nearly as

easy as Friday’s 7-0 domination of the Philadelphia Flyers.

”You’re still patching the dike in a sense. You don’t want to

lose anybody, let alone your star,” Oates said. ”It proves your

team is still a solid hockey team.”

Washington broke on top late in the first period with a

fast-break goal that Backstrom started and finished. After winning

a faceoff at the red line, he received a lead pass from Eric Fehr

and fired a 15-foot shot through Clemmensen’s legs. With the score,

Backstrom replaced Ovechkin as the team leader in points with

16.

Winchester tied it at 8:20 of the second period on a breakaway

goal, but Carlson answered 36 seconds later for Washington.

Fourth-line center Michael Latta got his first NHL assist in

helping Carlson score the first goal for a Washington defenseman in

30 days.

”We need offense from our (defense). Every team does,” Oates

said. ”You could tell by his celebration how much it meant to

him.”

NOTES: The Capitals have a 13-8-2 record in games missed by

Ovechkin. … A night after brawling with the Philadelphia Flyers

at the end of their 7-0 win, the Caps were involved in more

conventional tussle as Marcel Goc of the Panthers went after Latta

after the Washington rookie elbowed Fleischmann, Florida’s top

scorer. … Washington’s Marcus Johansson took what appeared an

inadvertent stick to his chin in the third period.