Ovechkin scores go-ahead goal as Capitals top Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)
Alex Ovechkin rebounded from his Olympic disappointment.
In the first game back since the break, Ovechkin scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and had two assists, and Troy Brouwer had two power-play goals, lifting the Washington Capitals to a 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich also tallied for the Capitals and Braden Holtby made 30 saves. Backstrom and Laich each had two assists.
Russia was eliminated by Finland in the quarterfinals at the Sochi Games, where Ovechkin had only one goal and one assist.
Brad Boyes scored twice for Florida, and Drew Shore and Tomas Fleischmann also had goals. Tim Thomas stopped 27 shots.
Ovechkin broke a 4-all tie in the third period when he took a pass from Laich on the right side and sent a one-timer past Thomas at 15:43 for his 41st goal.
"I think we had a pretty good game, but a couple of mistakes, a couple of turnovers almost cost us points," Ovechkin said. "But it's good we bounced back and finished."
Ovechkin's goal came just 16 seconds after a great save by Thomas with 4:43 left in the game. Mike Green came in on a breakaway on Thomas, who slipped backward into the crease and stretched out his glove into the net as he fell. Green's shot went right into Thomas's glove as he was flat on his back.
"I just caught a rut on the ice or something but it turned into a really nice highlight reel save," Thomas said. "I had to make the save because I look like an idiot."
Thomas' save might have turned the momentum toward Florida but Ovechkin spoiled the effort.
"We tied it up, we were fortunate enough for me to make that save, but (after) that type of save, the last thing you want to give up is a two-on-one," Thomas said.
The Capitals beat the Panthers for the ninth time in 10 meetings. Florida lost for the sixth time in seven games.
For Ovechkin, looking forward might be the best way to handle the disappointment, and this game was a good start.
"It's always important when you score goals because you're going to feel great the next day and the next game," Ovechkin said.
The Panthers rallied twice from two-goal deficits but it wasn't enough to stop the Capitals.
"The guys showed huge character after being down. I didn't like the goals they (Washington) scored, but they fought back and got a goal at the end of the first, we fought back and tied the game up, and we give them two goals again," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "We fight back and tie it up, then you give them the winner. It's frustrating."
Down 4-2, the Panthers tied it in the first half of the third period with two goals 82 seconds apart.
Shore scored a power-play goal at 8:01 with a slap shot. Boyes tied it 4-all when he grabbed his own rebound and put it into the net at 9:23.
"We lost our composure a little bit and they were able to capitalize on it," Laich said.
Brouwer's second power-play goal gave the Capitals a 4-2 lead. Thomas made a pad save on a shot by Ovechkin but lost his stick. Brouwer knocked in the loose puck with 47 seconds left in the second.
"We're trying to make a good playoff push and we need everyone to contribute to try and find ways to get points like we did tonight," Brouwer said.
The Panthers tied the score 2-2 just 40 seconds into the second. Boyes found a rebound at the right side of the net and poked in the puck.
The Capitals regained the lead about three minutes later. Backstrom took a rebound that went off a Panthers defenseman and put it into the net at 3:44.
The Capitals scored twice in the first period.
During a power play, John Carlson took a shot from the point that was blocked by Thomas. Brouwer grabbed the rebound after it deflected off Laich and backhanded it past Thomas at 5:48 to make it 1-0.
Laich then took a cross-ice pass from Ovechkin and scored on a one-timer from the right circle that went over Thomas's shoulder at 8:10.
The Panthers closed to 2-1 on Fleischmann's goal. Fleischmann took a pass from Jesse Winchester below the left circle and beat Holtby on the stick side at 15:27 of the first for his first goal in 23 games.
NOTES: Capitals C Marcus Johansson sat out the game due to fatigue after a 20-hour plane trip from Sweden via London to return to the U.S. ... D Mike Green and C Mikhail Grabovski, who missed five and eight games respectively due to injury before the Olympic break, were back in the lineup for Thursday's game. ... Panthers C Scott Gomez and D Dylan Olsen were healthy scratches.