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5 Takeaways: Panthers Come Up Just Short in Loss to Capitals

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

11/27/19 Post Game Interviews

11/27/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville and forwards Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman.

  • 01:00 •

Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville couldn't knock his team's visibly strong effort after a hard-fought 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Wednesday.

"We were doing a lot of good things," he said. "It was a tough loss against a good team."

Finishing with advantages in shots (40-20), shot attempts (67-43) and scoring chances (38-24), the Panthers threw everything they had at the Capitals, but simply came up short in the end to extend their losing streak to three games - a stretch following a three-game winning streak.

Sitting at 12-8-5, Florida has still won seven of its last 13 games.

"It's been a confidence thing for us this year," Panthers center Vincent Trocheck said. "We've been really good with that. We've had confidence in ourselves to know we can bounce back. For us, it's just a matter of doing that again."

Alexander Ovechkin opened the scoring by cutting through the defense before netting his team-leading 16th goal of the season of to put the Capitals up 1-0 at 17:57 of the first period. In the second, Brett Connolly scored in his return to D.C. to get the Panthers even and make it a 1-1 score at 11:17.

At 19:00, Richard Panik beat Sergei Bobrovsky to put Washington back on top 2-1. That lead was very short-lived, however, as Mike Hoffman went the other way quickly and slipped a shot past Braden Holtby at 19:22 to get the game knotted at 2 heading into the second intermission.

Bobrovsky finished with 16 saves, while Holtby made 37.

In the third period, Lars Eller and Brendan Leipsic each found the back of the net at 5:18 and 11:59, respectively, to put the Capitals ahead 4-2. Later, Trocheck answered with a timely goal for the Panthers, scoring from a very sharp angle to make it 4-3 with 4:29 still left on the clock.

But in the end, unlike in some of their recent games, the comeback fell just short.

"I thought defensively we did a lot of good things throughout most of the game," Quenneville said. "We had some decent looks ourselves on the power play that we didn't cash. All of the sudden we get that third one there and it's almost like there's another hope because we've had some miraculous comebacks. We almost did it again."

With the win, the Capitals (17-4-5) snapped out of a two-game losing skid.

Here are five takeaways from Wednesday's loss in Washington…

1. HOMECOMING KING

Connolly made himself at home in his return to Washington.

In his first game back in D.C. since joining the Panthers on a four-year deal this summer, the 27-year-old winger received a heartwarming standing ovation from fans before subsequently quieting down the home crowd with a slick goal that made it 1-1 at 11:17 of the second period.

Facing the Capitals twice this season, Connolly has a goal in each of those games.

Video: FLA@WSH: Connolly's breakaway goal in 2nd period

"Before I got there I was at a bit of a crossroads as to what I was as a player," Connolly said of his time in Washington after Tuesday's practice at the Panthers IceDen. "I kind of went there and there was very little pressure. They just let me play. It was a really good group of guys that had a lot of fun playing the game. It definitely kick-started my career and my confidence."

Lighting it up in his first season with Florida, Connolly has found the back of the net a whopping six times over his last six games to push his goal total to a team-leading 12. Of those 12 goals, 11 have come while at even-strength, which is currently tied for the fourth-most in the league.

Connolly ranks fifth on the Panthers in scoring with 19 points in 25 games.

2. MOVING ON UP

Hoffman made the most out of his promotion to the top line tonight.

With less than a minute remaining in the second period, the 30-year-old winger took a pass from Aleksander Barkov and fired a one-timer from just beyond the right circle that caught a piece of Holtby before trickling across the goal line to tie the game 2-2 with 38 seconds left on the clock.

Video: FLA@WSH: Hoffman fires home wrist shot in 2nd period

Playing primarily on the second line before tonight, Hoffman now has points in seven of his last nine games, posting four goals and four assists in that span to push his point total this season to 18. Of those points, 10 have come in the form of goals - tied for the second-most on the team.

"I thought we battled right until the end," Hoffman said. In addition to his goal, Hoffman had four shots while seeing a season-high 20:25 of ice time.

3. FROM A SHARP ANGLE

Trailing late, Trocheck gave the Panthers a chance.

Sliding down the left circle after receiving a pass from Keith Yandle, he let loose a sharp-angle shot that flew over Holtby's shoulder and in to cut the deficit to 4-3 at 15:31 of the third period.

Video: FLA@WSH: Trocheck scores sweet snipe in 3rd period

With two points tonight, Trocheck continues to settle back into a nice rhythm after missing some games earlier in the season due to a lower-body injury. Over his last seven games, the 26-year-old center has recorded three goals and four assists while winning 57.4 percent of his faceoffs.

"We battled back after we went down a couple goals," Trocheck said. "It's just a matter of us not going down a couple goals right now. For us, we just need to start playing a little bit simpler."

Tonight against the Capitals, Trocheck went 9-for-11 in the circle.

4. HELPERS FROM YANDS

Yandle picked up another pair of assists tonight.

Lending a hand on both Connolly and Trocheck's goals, the 33-year-old defenseman registered his fifth multi-point game of the season. Over his last 10 games, he's racked up one goal and 11 assists to push his point total on the season to a solid 20, which paces Florida's defensive corps.

A major contributor on the offensive side of the puck, Yandle currently ranks tied for seventh among the league's defensemen in points (20) and tied for fourth in power-play points (11).

In Washington tonight, Yandle led Florida with 25:42 of ice time.

5. THANKSGIVING BREAK

If you're in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving, you're on the right track.

That's been a widely held belief around most NHL circles for quite some time, and the statistics really support it. Over the past decade, typically 75 percent of teams that are in a playoff spot at this point in the season hold onto that spot and eventually make it all the way to the postseason.

The good news? The Panthers are in one of those playoff spots right now.

After taking the day off to enjoy the holiday on Thursday, the team will return to the ice for practice on Friday in preparation for a very important nine-game homestand, which starts on Saturday with a matchup against the Nashville Predators at BB&T Center.

"One game at a time," Quenneville said. "You can't get ahead of yourself. We went into this game here with the right approach. We're disappointed with our last two games. They were some positive games, knowing you do a lot of good things but don't win. If you play like that, you'll find a way going forward."

To catch the team at home in the coming weeks, visit FloridaPanthers.com/TicketCentral.

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