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Capitals rally, beat Panthers in overtime

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Washington Capitals were far from satisfied with their performance Tuesday night. But given how much of a struggle the start of the 2012-13 has been for them, all they cared about was being able to pull off a third-period comeback.

Troy Brouwer scored 32 seconds into overtime as the Capitals rallied from a 5-3 deficit to beat the Florida Panthers 6-5 at the BB&T Center for their first road victory, as well as their first winning streak.

"Two points is two points," Brouwer said. "We've had a few games we've given away two points, now it's our turn to battle back and get those two very important points. The way we did it is very encouraging, too, because we rely on our skill a lot of the time, but this time it was ugly. It was good bounces, guys going to the net. Those are the ways that you score those goals, and that's how you get back in the games, guys working hard."

Brouwer scored on a breakaway when he stuffed home the rebound after Scott Clemmensen had stopped him. He was sprung loose by a nice feed from Nicklas Backstrom.

"He made a beautiful pass," Brouwer said. "It went in on the second chance, but it doesn't matter -- it went in."

The victory gave the Capitals, who shut out the Panthers 5-0 at Washington on Saturday, a sweep of the home-and-home set.

Washington entered Tuesday's action with only seven points, the lowest total in the Eastern Conference. With the victory, the Capitals caught up to the New York Islanders, although Washington has played one more game.

"This was a must win for us," said right wing Eric Fehr, who started the comeback with his first goal of the season. "With Florida being down in the standings like we were, we had to get two points tonight. I think it's a confidence-builder for us. It wasn't the previous win, but we were able to come back and that's the old Caps team right there."

Mike Ribeiro had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, and Alex Ovechkin and Fehr each had a goal and an assist. Karl Alzner and Matt Hendricks had the other Washington goals.

The six goals set a new season high for the Capitals, topping the five they scored against the Panthers on Saturday night.

"I hope they understand that we can get plenty of goals," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "We've got the skill level to get goals. We've got to take care of our end, and that's the most important thing."

Braden Holtby finished with 27 saves, the same total he had in his shutout Saturday night.

"That's a game we're far from happy with how we played here, that's for sure," Holtby said of Tuesday's effort. "This win will do us wonders in the long run, knowing that we can come back. But at the same time, we play like that against one of the top teams, it's real ugly."

Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice for the Panthers, who have lost five straight against Washington dating back to last season, and Drew Shore scored his first NHL goal. Tomas Fleischmann and Shawn Matthias had the other Florida goals, and Peter Mueller had two assists.

"It's hard to accept, being up two goals in the third period," Huberdeau said.

Clemmensen, making his third start of the season, stopped 23 shots.

The Capitals' comeback began after Shore scored on a midair rebound that bounced in off defenseman John Erskine.

Shore, playing in his 10th NHL game after being recalled from San Antonio on Jan. 21, had two assists coming into the game.

"It's disappointing coming in a loss," Shore said of his milestone goal. "I'd trade it for a win any day, but it was nice to get the first one."

Fehr made it 5-4 at 14:53 when he tipped in Mike Green's shot from the point.

Ovechkin tied it at 17:11, only 4 seconds into a Washington power play. With Huberdeau in the box for slashing, the Capitals won the faceoff back to Ovechkin, who fired a wrist shot that beat Clemmensen low to the stick side.

"To be honest with you, I was not ready for it," Ovechkin said. "Because I just circle, turn and the puck is coming to me right away. I'm like, ‘Oh, OK'. So I just shoot it."

Oates seemed surprised about Ovechkin's comment.

"Well, you know what? It was a great shot, and that's his spot and obviously a huge goal for us," Oates said.

Huberdeau's two second-period goals came after Alzner had tied the game at 2-2 at 5:33 with a slap shot right off the faceoff.

Huberdeau's first goal came when he got his stick on Erik Gudbranson's wrist shot from the point after it had first been tipped by Mueller.

After Hendricks tied it again at 10:21 with a nifty backhand one-timer off a feed from Ovechkin, Huberdeau got his second off a nice feed from behind the net from Mueller. The goal came seconds after Ovechkin hit the post with a wrist shot from the high slot.

"We had a good second period," Huberdeau said. "We were flying, scored a couple. We just have to be better defensively. In the third, we let go of the all the good things we did in the second."

Florida led 2-1 after a first period highlighted by a heavy check by Ovechkin on Kris Versteeg and their ensuing scuffle.

The big check 1:13 into the game shook up Versteeg, who left the ice for a brief period. On his next shift, Versteeg cross-checked Ovechkin, leading to the scuffle.

With Washington on the power play after Versteeg received an extra minor, Ribeiro gave Washington the lead when he one-timed a loose puck sliding across the slot.

Fleischmann tied it at 10:18 thanks to a little bit of luck. After a Washington turnover in its own zone, Fleischmann skated toward the middle with the puck on his backhand before whirling around for a wrist shot. The puck was going wide of the net, but it bounced off the skate of Erskine and past Holtby.

Matthias gave Florida the lead at 13:09 of the third when he one-timed Marcel Goc's feed from behind the net to the slot.

After Washington outshot Florida 5-1 in the early going, the Panthers had a 12-0 shot advantage over the next 12:26.

"To stay with it for 60 minutes is something we talk about all the time," Oates said. "We saw it was going to be one of those kind of nights where goals are going in and just to stay with the program and fight through the mistakes and they did it. Good for them. Obviously, it's a good win for us."

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