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Panthers outlast Capitals in 10-round shootout

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- It was a long time coming for goalie Scott Clemmensen and the Florida Panthers.

Making his fourth start of the season because of an injury to starter Tim Thomas, Clemmensen earned his first victory when the Panthers snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Washington Capitals with a 3-2 shootout victory at BB&T Center on Friday night.

Clemmensen stopped the Capitals' final six shootout attempts before Tomas Kopecky scored the game-winner in the second half of the 10th round.

"December whatever it is, my first win of the season," said Clemmensen, wearing the red Macho Man straw hat given out by Panthers players after a victory. "It's been a long road here and [I] just kind of stick with it. Hey, we got the win regardless and the boys were kind enough to bestow the hat upon me tonight."

Jonathan Huberdeau, Brad Boyes and Nick Bjugstad also scored in the shootout for Florida; the goals by Boyes and Bjugstad extended the game. Eric Fehr, Nicklas Backstrom and Mikhail Grabovski scored in the shootout for the Capitals. Florida improved to 4-4 in tiebreakers this season; Washington is 5-2.

The shootout tied for the second-longest in Panthers history. The longest also came against Washington, a 2-1 victory that ended in the 11th round on Nov. 28, 2007.

In one of Clemmensen's three previous starts this season, he gave up three goals in three attempts in a 3-2 shootout loss against the Capitals at Verizon Center on Nov. 2. This time, he gave up three goals on Washington's first four attempts before shutting the door.

"The shootout is not my forte, to say the least here," Clemmensen said, laughing. "After you get past those first four shooters, everybody else kind of looks a little surprised to be where they're at that particular moment. It's easier on goalies at that point when you're used to being in those types of situations and now you're getting on down your bench. It kind of starts to get a little more fun for me anyway as it goes on.

"Obviously, some big goals by our guys there, especially Brad Boyes to force the extra innings. It's not my forte but, hey, we'll take it."

Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who had 48 goals in his previous 50 games, did not score and was limited to two shots on goal. Clemmensen also stopped him in the shootout.

Ovechkin, who missed the Nov. 2 game against Florida because of an upper-body injury, came in with 30 goals in 47 career games against the Panthers.

"I don't know how many shots he had, but you're certainly aware when he's on the ice," Clemmensen said. "He's a Panther killer, has been ever since I've been here and this is my fifth year. So you're always aware when he's out there. Regardless of how it went down, I don't care if he had both goals tonight, as long as we win that's the most important thing for us in this locker room."

The Panthers hadn't beaten Washington since Feb. 1, 2012, going 0-6-2 in that span.

Dylan Olsen and rookie Aleksander Barkov scored in regulation for the Panthers, who have won four of five. Backstrom had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, giving him 10 points in his last six games. Joel Ward added a power-play goal for the Capitals, who had won three in a row and five of six.

"It's not an easy night here," Backstrom said. "It's important that we're focused from the start. Everything has to be good."

Washington rookie Philipp Grubauer, making his third NHL start, finished with 39 saves.

This was the second of three meetings this season between the former Southeast Division foes; they meet again Feb. 27 at BB&T Center.

Florida led 1-0 and was outshooting Washington 26-10 late in the second period when the game took a sudden turn after Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson was assessed a match penalty after a hit to the head of Fehr. Gudbranson appeared to leave his feet as he leaned into Fehr in the neutral zone at 16:16. Fehr went to the Washington dressing room but was back for the start of the third period.

Capitals forward Troy Brouwer was given a minor penalty for instigating a fight with Gudbranson, leaving each team down a man for two minutes before the Capitals got a power play for 3:00.

"A hit like that isn't going to go without a response from this team," Brouwer said. "We have too much pride and respect for the fellow players on our team. We let other teams know you might not have to fight the toughest player on our team but you are going to have to step up. I went in and let it be known I was interested in trying to fight him but not try to get an instigator. The two minutes I'm OK with but I don't understand. It's a rule that's been in there forever."

Backstrom tied the game 18 seconds into the ensuing 4-on-4 when he took a feed from Grabovski from behind the net and put a quick wrist shot over the left shoulder of Clemmensen.

With the teams still playing 4-on-4, Barkov gave Florida the lead again at 17:56 with his fourth goal of the season. After intercepting Mike Green's pass at the Washington blue line, Barkov skated along the right wall before cutting across to the slot and firing a wrist shot that beat Grubauer low to the stick side.

After Brouwer's penalty expired, Ward tied the game on the power play with 30 seconds left in the period. Ward poked the puck in a scrum in front of the Florida net but it was quickly cleared away. When the whistle blew with 6.7 seconds left, the play was reviewed and video replay showed the puck had crossed the goal line.

"I tried to plant myself to get ready for a shot and I saw it kind of leak through the goalie," Ward said. "There was no whistle called, so I tried to follow it up and whack at it."

Washington had a goal disallowed in the first minute of the game when officials ruled that Martin Erat interfered with Clemmensen before Green's shot from the point went in.

Olsen opened the scoring at 2:13 of the second period as he continued his surprising offensive spurt. He skated down the left side after getting a rebound off the back boards and beat Grubauer with a wrist shot high to the short side.

It was the third goal in nine games for Olsen since he was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in the trade that involved veteran forward Kris Versteeg. He had two goals in 69 games in the American Hockey League during the past two seasons.

"I'm not quite sure what's going on," Olsen said. "I guess it's a little bit of luck -- just jumping up in the play and just putting pucks on net is really all it is. That's all I've been doing. You just see an opening and you throw it on net. It's been fortunate to go in. If I can keep this going, it would be awesome."

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