Panthers slip up in 3rd period, fall on the road to Capitals
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Once the Washington Capitals cracked Roberto Luongo, they cruised to their fifth consecutive victory.
T.J. Oshie, Alex Ovechkin and Lars Eller scored on five shots in less than five minutes as the Capitals beat the Florida Panthers 4-2 Saturday night to keep their winning streak going. Oshie had two goals in the game and wasn't worried about the veteran team getting frustrated by Luongo's heroics.
"Sometimes you've got to find different ways to score," said Oshie, who has six goals this season. "We got a pretty positive bench. We got guys that say the right things on the team. You saw there it took a tip-in goal to kind of open the floodgates a little bit."
Luongo was arguably the best player on the ice making 32 saves on 36 shots, and he was on the wrong end of some mistakes by an injury-riddled Panthers lineup. There wasn't much he could do on Oshie's first goal that came on a 2-on-1, or on Ovechkin's when the superstar made a textbook deflection of Brooks Orpik's shot.
Oshie's second goal and Eller's -- which came with the Danish ambassador witnessing his first hockey game -- were flashier. But the Capitals don't care how they score as long as they get the job done.
"We have to have traffic in front," said Ovechkin, who had an assist to go along with his seventh goal of the season. "If you're going to put big body in front of the net, it's one more chance to put it in on a deflection or he's not going to see it."
Luongo stopped just about everything he could see. He robbed Ovechkin from his spot on the power play, got his right pad on Marcus Johansson's effort from the edge of the crease and made such an impressive glove save on a rebound attempt by Nicklas Backstrom that he held the puck in the air like an outfielder showing he snared a line drive.
The 37-year-old earned plenty of kudos from Capitals players, and his coach didn't blame him at all when Florida's 2-1 lead became a 4-2 deficit in a 4:45 stretch.
"Second period he probably made five unbelievable saves to keep it close," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We made some dumb mistakes. We opened up the ice for them. They're a team that's going to capitalize on your mistakes."
Jared McCann scored his first goal with Florida after an offseason trade from Vancouver, and Reilly Smith had a power-play goal as the Panthers led early in the third period. But without ageless right winger Jaromir Jagr, who left with a groin injury, and many other key players, they couldn't handle the Capitals' onslaught.
"Things were looking good for our hockey team, and then we fell apart again," said Gallant, whose team has lost seven of 10. "It was a matter of time before they're coming back the way we were playing."
After a strong second period gave way to blowing a three-goal lead Thursday against Winnipeg, the Capitals didn't let up after an 18-4 second-period shot advantage Saturday. They got better as the game went on, and the results followed.
"We play with confidence," Ovechkin said. "We understand we can't let different teams play their way. We have to manage our speed, we have to manage our game and we have to dictate the scenario."
NOTES: Gallant said Jagr felt a cramp in his groin during the first period and was too sore to return. He said the injury didn't seem too serious and called the 44-year-old day to day. ... Washington starter Braden Holtby stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced. ... Capitals 1990 playoff hero John Druce dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff on Hockey Fights Cancer night. Druce's daughter Courtney died from cancer over the summer after being diagnosed with the disease five times since 2014.
Panthers: Return home from their one-game road trip to face their in-state-rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on Monday night.
Capitals: Host the defending Western Conference-champion San Jose Sharks on election night in the nation's capital Tuesday.