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Caps Stop Home to Host Panthers

Washington makes yet another one-game stop at Capital One Arena, this time to host the Florida Panthers on Saturday night

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / WashingtonCaps.com

Oct. 21 vs. Florida Panthers at Capital One Arena 

Time: 7:30 p.m. 

TV: NBC Sports Washington

Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Capitals Radio 24/7

Florida Panthers 2-4-0

Washington Capitals 4-3-1

Washington makes another quick stop at home on Saturday night, this time to host the Florida Panthers at Capital One Arena. The game is the fourth in the Capitals' string of six one-game homestands at the outset of the 2017-18 season, and it finishes off their second set of games on back-to-back nights this season.

The Caps started the weekend on a positive note, rallying from one-goal deficits in the second and third periods to earn a 4-3 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night in the Motor City. The game marked the first one ever for the Caps at Detroit's brand new Little Caesars Arena.

Alex Ovechkin netted the 20th game-winning overtime goal of his NHL career, taking the league's all-time lead in that department. He had been tied with Calgary's Jaromir Jagr (19) at the start of the night. Ovechkin's goal came on a four-on-three Washington power play in the extra session, and it came less than three minutes of playing time after T.J. Oshie's power-play tally - in a six-on-four situation with goaltender Braden Holtby pulled for an extra attacker - with just 61 seconds remaining in regulation. 

"It's big for us," says Oshie. "I think anytime you can fight a little bit of adversity during the year and overcome it - especially on the road - I think it's for the better. I think it makes you stronger; I think you get more belief that when you're in that situation later on the road, whether it's at the end of the season or the playoffs, you already have that in your game that you can stay calm and fight your way back in." 

Coming off consecutive losses, the Caps were somewhat snake-bitten early in Friday's game. Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek made some strong stops, and the Caps just misfired on a few other opportunities. When Andre Burakovsky scored his first goal of the season at 19:08 of the second period, it ended a scoreless drought of 128 minutes and 23 seconds for Washington, a dry spell that dated back to last Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Burakovsky's goal also opened the offensive faucet for the Capitals, starting a spree in which they scored four times on their final 17 shots on net of the evening, this after Mrazek had the answer for each of the Capitals' first 24 shots.

Playing in his 400th NHL game, Caps center Jay Beagle notched the second shorthanded goal of his career early in the third period, briefly staking Washington to a 2-1 lead. The Wings and Caps traded pairs of goals the rest of the way.

"We talked about coming here [to Detroit]," says Caps coach Barry Trotz, "and we said, 'Let's be real good for 48 hours here.' Back-to-backs are hard. I think early in the season, they're just really hard. You don't do them a lot, and especially early in the season, you run into teams that are emotionally [up]. You're not used to getting ramped up twice in 48 hours, and you run into some teams like we did [last Saturday] who have a home opener, they're emotionally engaged and ramped up, and we're coming in on the back-to-back. It wasn't pretty. 

"I think as the season goes on, just like with anything, your body and your mind and all that gets accustomed to getting ramped up twice in 48 hours." 

On Saturday against the Panthers, the Caps will be seeking their first set of consecutive wins since they started the season with triumphs at Ottawa and over Montreal, respectively. 

Florida won two of its first three to start the season, then lost both games in a Pennsylvania road trip to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, respectively. The Cats came home to host the Penguins on Friday night, dropping a 4-3 decision to Pittsburgh before flying up to the District to face the Capitals on Saturday. 

The Panthers jumped out to a quick start in Friday night's home game against the Pens, grabbing an early 2-0 lead before the six-minute mark of the first. But the Cats could not sustain; they surrendered three goals to the Pens on 22 shots in the middle frame. 

Playing for the first time in 2017-18 after being a healthy scratch in each of the seasons first five games, Mackenzie Weegar netted the first goal of his NHL career midway through the third to even the game at 3-3 for Florida. But a late tripping call on Radim Vrbata gave the Pens a power play opportunity, and Pittsburgh's Conor Sheary scored the game-winner on the man advantage with 2:53 remaining.

To make matters worse for the Panthers, they lost veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo to a hand injury early in the third period. James Reimer came on in relief; Sheary's goal was the only one he permitted in the dozen shots he faced. 

Former NHL defenseman Bob Boughner took over the reins behind the Florida bench this season, becoming the 14th coach in the team's 24 seasons in the league. 

The Panthers have been playing high-event hockey in the early games of the 2017-18 campaign. Florida has managed at least 31 shots on net in each of its first half dozen games this season, and its average of 40 shots on net per night is second highest in the league. But the Panthers also permit a high volume of shots, averaging 35.5 shots against per game, fifth most in the league.

Florida has surrendered at least one power-play goal in each of its first six games, and the Pens scored three of their four goals with the man advantage in Friday night's victory over the Panthers.

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