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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Panthers 5, Caps 4 (OT)

Caps can't get the rock to the top of the hill in loss to Panthers, third line and Kuznetsov keep rolling, Djoos returns, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Pushing The Rock - For the Capitals, trying to get on the right side of the scoreboard against the Florida Panthers proved to be a Sisyphean chore on Saturday night. The Panthers scored the game's first two goals just 35 seconds apart in the first period, and the Caps spent the rest of the night trying to do something they were never quite able to accomplish.

Florida prevailed by a 5-4 count at night's end, but the Caps were able to finally pull even late and force overtime, thus earning a valuable standings point. Given that the Panthers led by two goals on three separate occasions, it's a hard-earned point. But the Caps came so close to having a chance at picking up a pair of points.

Video: WSH Recap: Connolly nets two goals in 5-4 OT loss

After Derick Brassard's goal seven seconds into the third period, Florida had its third two-goal lead of the game. Each time the Caps were able to pull within a goal, the Cats were able to restore that two-goal cushion in short order. Brett Connolly's second goal of the game at 6:12 of the third pulled the Caps within a goal for the third time, at 4-3, and Braden Holtby made a couple of excellent stops to keep it that way.

Finally with 3:06 left, the Caps caught a break when Florida slowed up a bit in its own end, expecting a whistle for icing. The Caps played through and got the tying goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov off a splendid pass from Dmitry Orlov, tying the game at 4-4. Now the Caps also had momentum, and they were coming off an overtime win two nights earlier as well. They had to feel good about their prospects in the extra session.

But Connolly took a slashing minor in the offensive zone with 3.6 seconds left, and things went further south from there. With the league's best power play since Nov. 1 and a 4-on-3 manpower advantage in overtime, Florida sent the rock back in the Caps' direction when Mike Hoffman scored his team-leading 11th power-play goal of the season in overtime to send the Cats home victorious.

"I would have liked our chances going into three-on-three [overtime]," says Caps center Lars Eller. "Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way. Going into the game, this is a game we feel like we should have, and somehow we dig ourselves out of a pretty deep hole, down 2-0, and then two times again after that. So I guess that's a strength, but again we're making some mistakes, just little, tiny mistakes - details - that cost us games."

Video: Postgame Locker Room | February 9

Third Line Rolling - The line of Eller, Connolly and Andre Burakovsky was responsible for each of Washington's first three goals, with Nic Dowd standing in for Burakovsky on the second of those tallies.

With two goals and an assist, Connolly enjoyed the third two-goal game and the second three-point game of his career. Eller scored a goal and added an assist, and Burakovsky had a pair of helpers, giving him two goals and six points in his last eight games.

Keeping Warm - Kuznetsov's timely tally continues his recent hot streak. He has four goals and eight points in five games on the current homestand, and he has five goals and 11 points in his last seven games overall.

Back In The Saddle - Caps defenseman Christian Djoos returned to action from a leg injury that kept him out of the lineup for the last two months. Djoos saw NHL action for the first time since suffering the injury in a Dec. 11 game against Detroit, skating 10:53 on the night while recording a couple of shots on net and finishing the night at plus-1.

"You can practice so much, but you've got to get into game shape," says Djoos, who did a two-game injury rehab stint with AHL Hershey in preparation for his return. "The two games in Hershey helped me, and it's a fast game out there so speed's got to get better."

Milestone Men - Holtby played in the 400th game of his NHL career on Saturday night while Washington winger Dmitrij Jaskin suited up for his 300th career NHL game against the Panthers. Holtby debuted with a win in relief of Michal Neuvirth against Boston on Nov. 5, 2010. Jaskin skated in his first NHL game on April 16, 2013 for St. Louis against the Vancouver Canucks.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears were at home on Saturday night, hosting the Charlotte Checkers. The Bears skated off with a 3-2 shootout win to run their point streak to 11 straight games (10-0-0-1).

The Bears were trailing 1-0 in the second when Jonas Siegenthaler scored his first goal of the season to knot the score at 1-1 at 8:47, Shane Gersich and Jayson Megna assisting. The goal came in Siegenthaler's first game with the Bears since Nov. 4. The Caps reassigned Siegenthaler to Hershey a day earlier when Djoos returned to active duty for the first time in nearly two months.

Charlotte regained the lead at 2-1 midway through the third, but the Bears rallied to tie it up late with goaltender Vitek Vanecek pulled for an extra attacker. Riley Barber netted the tying goal with 1:24 left, his 20th goal of the season, and he got help from Aaron Ness and Nathan Walker. 

Hershey prevailed in the shootout to make a winner out of Vanecek (12-8-2) and to pull within two points of a playoff berth.

The Bears host Charlotte once again on Sunday afternoon at Giant Center.

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | February 9

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 28:47 in ice time … Michal Kempny led the Caps with five shots on net and 10 shot attempts … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with three hits … Carlson and Brooks Orpik each had three blocked shots to lead Washington … Dowd won five of seven face-offs (71 percent).

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