WASHINGTON - The Florida Panthers gave the Washington Capitals chance after chance to take control Thursday night, but some great work from goalie Tomas Vokoun and a poor effort from Caps' power play sent the home team and the sellout crowd at the Verizon Center home with a disappointing loss.
Vokoun made 36 saves, including 18 in the first period, and the Panthers earned a 3-0 victory against the Capitals. Michal Frolik had the critical first goal late in the second period and Florida earned a third straight victory for the first time this season.
"We got shelled a couple times from them last year so it was nice to get a win here," said Vokoun, whose team had lost six in a row to the Capitals. "It is big for us. We hadn't won three games in a row all year and we were in a hole coming back from California. We battle and now we just need to keep up the momentum."
Washington went 0-for-8 on the power play, including two chances with a two-man advantage that totaled more than two minutes. The Capitals had 17 shots with at least one extra attacker, including 11 in the first period, but Vokoun was unbeatable.
The Capitals, winners of the Presidents' Trophy while racking up the most goals in the League last season, now have lost four straight games for the first time in 2010-11. Worse, the offense continues to struggle -- Washington has been shut out three times and been held to one goal twice in the past 11 games.
"We've been doing teams a lot of favors lately, letting them pull out of slumps and letting teams feel good about themselves," forward Mike Knuble said. "It is getting, frankly, pretty tiring. We're supposed to be a top team and we're letting teams come in here and feel good about themselves when they leave."
All of Washington's top offensive weapons are slumping at the same time. Alex Ovechkin had scored in the previous two games, but now has just those two tallies in the past 12 games. Alexander Semin, who leads the team with 18 goals, hasn't scored in nine of the past 11.
Mike Green, the League's top offensive defenseman the past two seasons, has no goals and 1 point in his past 10 games. Knuble has just two in 11 games. Brooks Laich has two in 15. Nicklas Backstrom has 4 goals and 10 points in the past eight games, but just 2 assists during the four-game losing streak.
"Quite frankly, if your best players are your best players," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, "you have to get production out of your best players and it is not happening right now. … If they're not going to score and our power play isn't going to work, you better win the game 1-0. They're not playing good enough right now to score goals."
The Capitals came into the game with the No. 4 power play in the League at 23.8 percent. Washington has finished the past two seasons at 25.2 percent -- two of the three best power-play proficiency rates in the NHL during the past decade.
The Caps had seven chances with the extra man in the first 32 minutes but could not convert. For 39 minutes and 59 seconds and 46 shots on goal, Vokoun and Washington's Semyon Varlamov were perfect.
"Guys battled, blocked shots, got to passes - that's a recipe for winning on the road," Vokoun said. "You have to try to hang around and you have to get a goal and then hold on."
Frolik gave the Panthers the lead in the dying seconds of the middle period. There was a wild scramble in front of the Capitals net and Frolik was able to flip the puck over a prone Varlamov while being knocked to the ice with one second left in the period.
It was Frolik's sixth goal of the season and came after Florida was unable to convert on a 78-second two-man advantage of its own.
"It is huge - just one second. I've been on that side too," Vokoun said. "It is really deflating to how you feel. It is one second - that is tough. It gave us momentum. We knew they were going to take chances, so we just tried to stay patient and capitalize if they make a mistake on the rushes."
Steve Bernier doubled Florida's advantage at 8:10 of the third period. Two seconds after a Washington penalty expired, Bernier was all alone at the top of the crease and tapped his team's third chance on the play. Varlamov made a great sliding save on the first shot, and Stephen Weiss' rebound try hit the crossbar, but Bernier hit the net for his fourth of the season.
Mike Santorelli finally collected the game's first power-play tally with a pretty move past Varlamov with 2:34 remaining the contest.
Washington had an eighth power play in the third period but could not score. Boudreau shuffled his lines, moving Ovechkin to the second line and to right wing with Mathieu Perreault and Jason Chimera, but it was to no avail.
"Every team knows that they've got to check this guy and check that guy," Boudreau said. "We as individuals have to change a little bit of the way we play. That's why I switched Alex from left wing to right wing because they had [Mike] Weaver out there every time against him. We've got to find a way to get around that."
Added Knuble: "Nobody is more embarrassed than the players today. We've got some of our players that have flown under the radar with their play - myself included. I'm probably the No. 1 culprit. It's not on [Ovechkin]. It's not on [Backstrom]. It is not on our top guys all the time. Other guys need to help out. We've all got to better."