WASHINGTON – The Panthers left this snowy city early Sunday evening in the wake of one of their biggest victories of the season.
Less than 24 hours after getting blown out in New Jersey, the Panthers once again proved their resiliency by beating up on Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals 6-2 behind three power play goals and 32 saves by goalie Craig Anderson.
As they have throughout the past nine weeks, the Panthers continue bouncing back from disappointing performances with big wins at crucial times.
After losing to Chicago last month they came back and shutout Boston. After getting blown-out by Boston at the start of this road trip they came back and beat the Rangers. And after Saturday’s 7-2 debacle in New Jersey, they killed in Washington.
The Panthers haven’t lost consecutive games since Dec. 29-31. Since that time, they’ve gone 16-7-3. And while resiliency is one of the most overused words in sport, that record suggests, well…resiliency.
“That game left a bad taste in our mouth,” said defenseman Bryan McCabe, referring to Saturday’s loss. “But at this time of year, you can’t dwell on it.”
Coach Peter DeBoer said as much minutes after the Jersey loss and his team did the same Sunday before a sold-out house in Washington. Three power-play goals in the first period gave the struggling unit confidence and was a huge boost for the rest of the team.
And those three goals came after the Capitals had jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
“We’ve given up the first goal in the last three, four games and we could have very easily said, ‘Oh, this is it,’ ” McCabe said. “But everyone played hard and it was just what we needed.”
After allowing 36 or more shots in their previous six games, the Panthers held Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals to 16 shots in the first 40 minutes, and only five shots in the second period. The Panthers got the puck out of their own zone quickly (the opposite of Saturday) and kept pressure on the Capitals.
“It was a huge two points,” said Stephen Weiss
, “especially after (Saturday) and the way we were able to bounce back. We put that game behind us and responded.”
The Panthers are in the middle of their toughest part of the schedule. They play 12 games in 21 days. The schedule includes two each against the Capitals, Bruins, Devils, Rangers and one each against conference foes Carolina, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
With three games remaining in this 12-game grind, the Panthers are 5-4 with games Tuesday at Atlanta and home Thursday against Pittsburgh and then St. Louis. And they’re currently 2-2 on this five-game road swing which ends Tuesday.
Yes, they collapsed in Boston and were bombed in New Jersey. But each time they’ve come back with huge games. And they have a big shot to end this 12-game grid with as many as eight wins.
Would you have taken an 8-4 or 7-5 record when this stretch began back on February 13? Would you have taken 3-2 on this road trip with stops against the top three teams in the league in Washington, New Jersey and Boston?
“It was an important two points,” DeBoer said. “We’ve been on this trip a while. New Jersey, there was nothing good to say. Boston, we gave up a lot of chances. But (Sunday) we tightened things up. We had a lot better effort across the board.”
And the hope is that carries over into Atlanta.NOTE
Cory Stillman, who’s missed the past three games with a foot bruise, skated Sunday morning and is hopeful he can return Tuesday against the Thrashers. “I was hoping (Sunday) but it didn’t go as well as I hoped,” he said. “We’ll go to practice (Monday) and see how it goes.”…Ovechkin, who fired 12 shots on the Panthers earlier this year and had the hat trick in their last meeting, was held to seven shots and one goal (with :22 remaining in regulation)…Keith Ballard and Karlis Skrastins each had four blocked shots…McCabe had seven shots, Michael Frolik six (also a goal), and Weiss five with a goal and two assists…The Panthers play 11 of their last 18 games at home. They have a two-game road trip March 10-12 in Pittsburgh and Buffalo, a three-game trip March 25-28 in Buffalo, Philadelphia and Dallas, and a two-game trip April 7-9 in Philly and Atlanta. They home opponents include the Blues, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Senators and Thrashers along with the Hurricanes, Capitals, Penguins (twice) and Blue Jackets…