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game recap

Capitals lose to Panthers, miss chance to clinch Metropolitan

Third-period rally comes up short in bid to lock up first place in division

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

Trocheck's 100th NHL goal

WSH@FLA: Trocheck pots 100th NHL goal

Vincent Trocheck speeds past the defense while the Panthers are shorthanded and fires a wrister past Pheonix Copley for his 100th NHL goal

  • 00:51 •

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Washington Capitals missed a chance to clinch first place in the Metropolitan Division, losing 5-3 to the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Monday.

With the New York Islanders losing 2-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington (47-25-8) would have clinched first with a win. The Capitals lead the second-place Islanders by three points with two games remaining for each.

"Obviously, it would have been nice to clinch it, but we've got two more chances," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "Hopefully, we can get it done."

 

[WATCH: All Capitals vs. Panthers highlights]

 

Washington scored three straight goals in the third period to get to within one, but the Panthers held on to complete their first season series sweep of the Capitals, following victories at Capital One Arena on Oct. 19 (6-5 in the shootout) and Feb. 9 (5-4 in overtime).

Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana scored for Washington, which lost for the first time in five games. Pheonix Copley made 29 saves.

"No one quit," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "That's too big of a lead to spot anybody, even with the talent that we have in our room. When things aren't going like we'd like them to early in the game, we gotta stop it at two. We can't let it get to four. That's too difficult to come back from. At the end, I'm proud that our guys didn't stop. We didn't miss by much on a couple of those chances to make it 4-4."

Video: WSH@FLA: Brouwer finishes Barkov's brilliant pass

Aleksander Barkov had three assists to tie Pavel Bure's Panthers record of 94 points in a season, set in 1999-2000.

"Of course, it's a nice milestone for me," Barkov said. "It means that I'm playing with really good players and we're having fun and creating chances and scoring goals. So that's a really fun thing, but my biggest goal is to make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and win the Stanley Cup."

Florida (36-32-12) has been eliminated from contention for a playoff berth.

Vincent Trocheck had two goals, including into the empty net to make it 5-3 with 27 seconds remaining, and Frank Vatrano, Jonathan Huberdeau and Troy Brouwer scored for the Panthers, who have won three in a row.

Roberto Luongo made 26 saves in his third consecutive start.

Video: WSH@FLA: Huberdeau scores off turnover in front

"I thought he was amazing," Florida coach Bob Boughner said. "He made some big saves, especially in the beginning of the second period. Even at the end when Washington turned it up a notch and it's a 6-on-5, he held strong. He was a big part of our win tonight."

Vatrano scored at 13:48 of the first period to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

Florida scored three times in the second period.

Huberdeau made it 2-0 with an unassisted goal at 3:34 when he got to the puck after it came in front of the net after the Capitals misplayed it.

Trocheck scored shorthanded at 12:01 to make it 3-0.

Brouwer made it 4-0 at 17:57 when he shot into an open net after Barkov made a backward diagonal feed after taking a cross-ice pass from Dryden Hunt.

"We weren't sharp to start the game, and they were able to convert on their chances," Reirden said. "They got some good opportunities and they finished. We didn't get ours until the game was out of reach. If we could have made a little bit of an earlier surge, we would have had a chance to at least get a point out of this."

Kuznetsov scored to make it 4-1 at 10:55 of the third when he deflected John Carlson's shot from the point.

Video: WSH@FLA: Kuznetsov beats Luongo on deflection

Backstrom made it 4-2 at 16:25 with a shot from the slot.

Vrana scored at 17:39 to get the Capitals to within 4-3 with Copley pulled for the extra skater.

"It's nice to see us battle, but there's no consolation prizes for stuff like that," Carlson said. "We needed to be better earlier, that's really what it comes down to."

 

They said it

"I'd rather play this game right now than a week and a half from now. Good thing we got it out of the way." -- Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom

"It's a joke at this point how good he is and how easy it is for him to create offense and score goals and make plays. Extremely happy for him. It couldn't happen to a more humble person." -- Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck on Aleksander Barkov tying Florida's single-season scoring record

 

Need to know

It was Copley's first start since March 19. … Trocheck's first goal was his 100th in the NHL. … Huberdeau (28) and Vatrano (24) each extended his NHL career high in goals. … Florida has scored two shorthanded goals in its past two games after scoring one in its first 78 games.

 

What's next

Capitals: Host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV)

Panthers: Host the New York Islanders on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG+, NHL.TV)

Video: Trocheck, Barkov fuel Panthers in 5-3 defeat of Caps

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