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game recap

Capitals hold off Panthers, get first win in three games

Holtby makes 37 saves to send Florida to third straight loss

by Harvey Valentine / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

Ovechkin opens the scoring

FLA@WSH: Ovechkin opens the scoring with quick shot

Alex Ovechkin receives a backhand pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and skates through the Florida defense to score the first goal of the night

  • 00:43 •

WASHINGTON -- Braden Holtby made 37 saves in the Washington Capitals' 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers at Capital One Arena on Wednesday.

Lars Eller and Brendan Leipsic scored third-period goals for Washington (17-4-5), which was 0-1-1 in its previous two games. Alex Ovechkin and Richard Panik scored, and Jonas Siegenthaler had two assists for Washington.

"That's him playing some of his best hockey," Eller said of Holtby. "Especially tonight we really needed him to come up with that because we probably wouldn't get out of here with two points if he didn't play to that level. He played amazing. He was our best player."

 

[WATCH: All Panthers vs. Capitals highlights]

 

Former Capitals forward Brett Connolly scored his Florida-leading 12th goal in his first game back in Washington as a member of the Panthers (12-8-5), who have lost three straight games after going 5-1-0 in their previous six.

Vincent Trocheck had a goal and an assist, Mike Hoffman scored, and Keith Yandle had two assists for Florida. Sergei Bobrovsky made 16 saves.

"I thought we did a lot of good things tonight," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "That was a well-played game from our point of view, and we just need some saves to win the game in a game like tonight. We kept getting ourselves back in the game and doing a lot of good things, so it was a tough loss against a good team."

Video: FLA@WSH: Trocheck scores sharp-angle snipe

Ovechkin made it 1-0 at 17:57 of the first period when he took a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov with three defenders nearby, dragged the puck past Florida defenseman Mark Pysyk and beat Bobrovsky through the five-hole from the slot.

Connolly tied it 1-1 at 11:17 of the second period on a breakaway.

Panik gave Washington a 2-1 lead with one minute left in the period, beating Bobrovsky to the far side with a wrist shot from the right face-off circle.

"The first [goal] was unlucky a little bit," Bobrovsky said. "He missed it, he fanned on the shot and it went five-hole. The second one also I could play better, for sure. I made a positional mistake."

Video: FLA@WSH: Panik takes the lead with nifty wrist shot

Florida responded quickly when Hoffman made it 2-2 with 38 seconds left on a one-timer from above the right circle.

"We stuck with it," Hoffman said. "They got up, we battled back, they'd go up and we'd get one back again. A couple little minor breakdowns, and they made us pay."

Eller gave Washington a 3-2 lead at 5:18 of the third. Bobrovsky made a pad save on Jakub Vrana's shot, but Eller backhanded the rebound home from the slot for his first goal in 10 games since Nov. 3.

"It was weird because I felt like during the month I've had plenty of opportunities to score and [hit] posts and crossbars," Eller said. "Didn't play particularly well today and first opportunity I really get, probably only shot on net, a rebound, it's odd. But it feels good."

Video: FLA@WSH: Eller's backhand goal for the lead

Leipsic got behind the Florida defense and put the puck between Bobrovsky's legs to make 4-2 at 11:59.

"I kind of took a peek over my shoulder," Leipsic said, "seeing how much time I had and was looking to see if I had a guy coming in late or not, but took that one to the hole and it paid off."

Trocheck pulled with Panthers within 4-3 from below the left face-off circle at 15:31.

Video: FLA@WSH: Leipsic goes five-hole

 

They said it

"We definitely went into this game here with the right approach. We were disappointed with our last two games, and I think when you get some positive games and you do a lot of good things, you don't win, but when you play like that you find a way hopefully." -- Panthers coach Joel Quenneville

"We made a few mistakes, and they ended up costing us at some tough times in the game, but we responded in the third, and that's what it's about. Mistakes are going to happen in the game, and it's how you respond to them." -- Capitals coach Todd Reirden

 

Need to know

The Panthers play their next nine games at home. … Connolly has eight points (six goals, two assists) in his past seven games. He had 96 points (52 goals, 44 assists) for Washington in 217 games over three seasons (2016-19) and helped the Capitals win their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018. Connolly agreed to a four-year contract with Florida on July 1. … Vrana's assist was his 100th NHL point. … Capitals forward Nic Dowd played 9:26 in his return after missing five games because of an upper-body injury. … Washington forward Garnet Hathaway served the third of a three-game suspension for a spitting incident involving Anaheim Ducks defenseman Erik Gudbranson on Nov. 18.

 

What's next

Panthers: Host the Nashville Predators on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-F, FS-TN, NHL.TV)

Capitals: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday (5 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NBCSWA, SUN, NHL.TV)

Video: Ovechkin, Capitals hold off Panthers

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