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Backstrom, Capitals beat Panthers in shootout

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals' game against the Florida Panthers on Saturday may not have featured the same fireworks as their game Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers, but the result was the same.

One night after drubbing the Flyers in a 7-0 road win marred by a third-period line brawl, the Capitals returned to Verizon Center for the first time in two weeks to defeat the Panthers 3-2 in a shootout.

"We won a couple of different ways," Steve Oleksy said. "[Friday] we proved to ourselves that we can win that way. [Saturday's game] was closer than we wanted it to be, but down the stretch, we found a way, which is important."

Just as he did Friday against the Flyers, Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring Saturday with his third goal in two games and fifth of the season at 16:41 of the first period.

Backstrom finished a rush that he began by winning a neutral zone faceoff. As the Capitals entered the zone, Eric Fehr attempted to shovel a backhand pass toward Martin Erat, but the puck ricocheted off a skate and right to Backstrom, who fired it past Scott Clemmensen from the slot.

With the goal, Backstrom passed Alex Ovechkin, who missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury, for the team lead in scoring with 16 points.

Florida (3-8-3) tied the game at 8:20 of the second period when Scottie Upshall intercepted a Brooks Laich pass and fed Jesse Winchester, who took it the length of the ice for a breakaway goal through Michal Neuvirth's legs despite being pulled down from behind by Laich.

Washington (7-7-0) quickly responded, restoring its one-goal lead on the rush 36 seconds later on John Carlson's snap shot.

Carlson beat Clemmensen after taking a nice saucer pass from Michael Latta. It was Carlson's first goal and only the second scored by a Capitals defenseman; Connor Carrick, currently with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League, scored Oct. 3 against the Calgary Flames.

With time running out, Tomas Fleischmann's sharp-angle power-play goal tied the game at 2-2 with less than three minutes remaining. With Oleksy joining Mike Green in the penalty box for slashing Upshall, Jonathan Huberdeau set up Brian Campbell for a pass behind the net to Fleischmann.

The power-play goal, which came on Florida's sixth man advantage of the game, snapped Washington's streak of 35 consecutive penalty kills.

"Too many penalties," Oates said. "They scored a big goal for themselves there at the end and broke our streak. It's too bad because we had been on a nice run."

In the shootout, Mikhail Grabovski and Aleksander Barkov traded impressive goals in the first round, but Barkov's goal was the only one the Panthers could muster. Laich and Backstrom scored to seal the Capitals' victory.

Neuvirth made 31 saves in regulation and overtime, then stopped Huberdeau in the second round of the shootout.

Washington continued its five-year domination of Florida, winning for the 18th time in 23 meetings dating back to the 2009-10 season. The Panthers have lost five straight and eight of nine.

"What we have to do is believe that if we are going to play well, the wins are going to come," Fleischmann said. "I think we took a good step in the right direction tonight. We played like a team pretty good all 60 minutes, and I think that's how we get two points next game."

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