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Fleischmann sparks Capitals' third-period rally

by Brian Hunter /
Tomas Fleischmann will probably never be confused for Alex Ovechkin. But right now, he's helping make up for the absence of No. 8 in the Washington Capitals' lineup.

Fleischmann scored two of the Capitals' five third-period goals as they rallied past the Florida Panthers, 7-4, on Saturday night at the Verizon Center to complete a home-and-home sweep and win for the second time in three games since Ovechkin was forced out of the lineup with an upper-body injury.

Since returning from a blood clot in his leg that sidelined him at the start of the season, Fleischmann has five goals in six games.

"(Mike) Green and Ovi aren't in the lineup. I think that says something: that our other players are good," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "People seem to forget that."

Mathieu Perreault, a recall from Hershey of the AHL when Ovechkin was hurt, scored his first NHL goal to draw the Capitals even and begin the late outburst.

Mike Knuble scored twice in the game for Southeast Division-leading Washington (10-3-4), which also got goals from Brooks Laich and Quintin Laing.

"Alex is a tough guy to replace, but we've got four lines that can score," Laich said.

Michael Frolik, Dmitry Kulikov, Michal Repik and Cory Stillman had the goals for Florida (5-9-1), which lost 4-1 on home ice Friday.

"It was like Murphy's Law. Anything that could go wrong, went wrong," said goalie Scott Clemmensen, who gave up all seven goals on 32 shots. "We weren't very good down low; there were a lot of open guys around the net. It looked like a fire drill down there. It was total chaos from my perspective."

The Panthers carried a 3-2 lead into the final 20 minutes, but Perreault struck at 2:21 with an unassisted, game-tying goal and Laing put the Capitals ahead just 40 seconds later.

Stillman made it 4-4 at the 5:09 mark, but Fleischmann put the Capitals ahead to stay at 7:22 when he converted a pretty pass from Nicklas Backstrom and beat Clemmensen.

Knuble and Fleischmann then added insurance, with each scoring his second of the night in the final 10 minutes. Knuble deflected Shoane Morrisonn's drive from the blue line with 8:54 remaining, then set up Fleischmann for a quick blast from the left circle with 6:22 left.

"If they win this hockey game, it's a split and we look at it as a missed opportunity," Laich said.

Knuble had the only goal of the first period, taking a Brendan Morrison feed and scoring from the right of the crease with 6:48 to play.

Florida, which had won three in a row before Washington came to town, took control in the second. Frolik jammed the rebound of a Bryan McCabe shot past Jose Theodore at 1:35 to tie the score. Then, after Laich's power-play goal at 6:17 put the Capitals back in front, the Panthers went ahead for the only time as Kulikov and Repik each scored his first of the season.

Kulikov, like Perreault, scored his first NHL goal as the 19-year-old defenseman lit the lamp at 10:24. Repik's go-ahead goal came with 3:57 left in the second, a wrist shot past Theodore following a backhand pass by Kenndal McArdle from the backboards.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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