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Panthers Wrap-Up: Capitals 4, Panthers 3

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

1 2 3 OT T
Panthers 0 0 3 0 3
Capitals 1 3 0 0 4
FLA - T. Kopecky (14), PP - P. Mueller (8), T. Kopecky (15)
WSH - PP. - A. Ovechkin (21), PP - M. Ribero (12), A. Ovechkin (22), PP - A. Ovechkin (23)

SUNRISE, Fla —  SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - Alex Ovechkin recorded his 12th career hat trick and added an assist, and the surging Washington Capitals survived a late rally by the Florida Panthers for a 4-3 victory on Saturday night.

Ovechkin scored twice from in close on the power play, and weaved through traffic for his other goal, as the Capitals (19-17-2) improved to 8-2-1 in their last 11 games in completing a four-game season sweep of the Panthers.

"You have to be aware when he (Ovechkin) is on the ice and today they scored two of the exact same type of goals on the power play. The one time we didn’t clear the puck, we didn’t battle enough and it ends up being in our net so it’s not as much what they do but what we did wrong. That is what is hurting us right now."

- Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky.
1. Power Play Start: Playing for the first time since Tuesday, the Cats actually had good jump in the opening minutes, getting a couple of good scoring chances on Braden Holtby and finished with nine shots in the period. The Capitals netminder was up to the task in stopping all of them and was staked to a late lead heading into the intermission thanks to a power play goal. There, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Ribeiro combined to set up the captain Alex Ovechkin with 4:15 to play. The power play was set up by an Erik Gudbranson major boarding penalty on Capitals forward Martin Erat in which he also received a game misconduct. Washington scored 1:08 into the five minute major. Florida looked good the rest of the power play, killing off the final 3:52.

2. Just Too Much Ovechkin: While they killed off the rest of the major, the same couldn't be said in the second period as the Capitals scored twice on the man advantage and it was in large part due to the Capitals captain. In fact, Washington scored three times in the second and the Russian star had a hand in all three of them, picking up an assist on Mike Ribeiro's powr play tally 43 seconds in and then completing a hat trick with back-to-back goals. His second of the night came at the 2:24 mark as he made a move around defenseman Filip Kuba, cut away from the goal and fired a shot top shelf on Jacob Markstrom. The hat trick came with 5:38 to play in the period when he snuck down from the face-off circle and cashed into the wide open net off a feed from Marcus Johansson. Ovechkin figured into all four Capitals goals on the night, leading by example.

3. Rally Falls Short: The Capitals looked to have the game sewn up, holding a four goal cushion after two periods. But the way the Panthers have played in the last several games, they made a furious come back. Unfortunately the difference at the beginning was a little too big to overcome. Tomas Kopecky got the Panthers scoring started with a beauty top shelf off the rush up the right side. He took the cross ice feed from Tomas Fleischmann and roofed it 6:45 into the period. Then after Nicklas Backstrom took a penalty, Peter Mueller made it a two goal game scoring off a scramble in front of Holtby, scoring on the rebound 1:44 later. With Markstrom pulled for an extra attacker, Kopecky scored by banking it in off a Capital from near the net with 32.7 to play. Still with Markstrom pulled, Florida tried to find the equalizer but couldn't. It was great push back, especially after the way the second period played out.
Memorable twitter posts from the game.

@DanBoe26: My @FlaPanthers fought valiantly and I love y'all still. See ya tomorrow when ya crush the Sens! #RedRising

@KittonMitton: Why I love the Panthers....they never give much heart! Go Cats! Great game @thebbtcenter @FlaPanthers @goldieonice #comebackcats

@Jim_Nowhere: if only @FlaPanthers had played the whole game like they did the 3rd.

@dsilv_tsd: Kopecky deserves some serious praise for his great game tonight. Thank you to him and Mueller. #LetsGoCats

@nazzy003: Ohhhhhh so close boys. Great work tonight #flapanthers Next year is going to be bad for the other 29 teams. #weseered

Memorable fan posts from the game.

Mike Gratton: If they played the whole game like they did in the third we would of won

Cody Llamas: Never out of if .. Good job panthers

Torsten Wedel: I left after the Second when we were behind 4:0... I guess I learned my lesson... never give up on the Panthers.... we could have made it, bad luck. Lets Go Panthers tomorrow.

Jeff Carter: Never let them get comfortable. next year will be something to behold.

Hector Diaz: But once again they make it interesting in the THIRD period! Seriously. They need to play like that earlier in the game!!!

4. The Capitals captain was a tough man to contain Saturday night as he recorded points in all four Washington goals, including scoring his second career hat trick against the Panthers.

Making it a two goal game with a power play goal by Peter Mueller, the Panthers have scored six power play goals in their last four games, scoring at a 46.2% rate as they have scored on 6-of-13 opportunities over that span.

Other than the loss obviously, it wasn't a bad NHL debut for center Nick Bjugstad. He finished the game with 13:04 of ice time on 19 shifts, had a great scoring opportunity from in close and finished with three hits on the night. He was the seventh Panther to make his NHL debut this season.

Scoring twice in the third period, forward Tomas Kopecky now has 15 goals on the season, the most on the Panthers. It also has tied a career-high as he also had that total in 81 games in 2010-11 with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Florida really racked up the hits in Saturday night's game as they were credited with 43 of them on the night. That was 19 more than the Capitals (24). Defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Tyson Strachan led the way with six a piece while TJ Brennan, Filip Kuba, George Parros and Marcel Goc each chipped in with four each.

Alex Ovechkin
Had a hand in in all four of the Capitals goals, scoring the first, third and fourth and picking up the second assist on the middle one.

3 Goals, 1 Assist, 4 Points, +1, 4 Shots, 20:53 TOI
Florida has little time to think about this loss as they are right back at it on Sunday for a game against the Ottawa Senators. It will be the last time the two teams meet this season with Florida looking for their first victory of the season series. Florida has only able been to beat the Senators goaltending of Craig Anderson once in two games as the Cats have been out scored 7-1 in the first two games of the season. Ottawa comes into the game following a 4-2 loss to Buffalo on Friday night. Currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference (44 points in 37 games), the Senators are led offensively by new addition, rookie Cory Conacher (24 points in 36 games) while Kyle Turris and Sergei Gonchar have 22 points in 37 and 34 games respectively. Anderson could return to the lineup after facing a lower-body injury and holds an 8-4-2 record with a .952 save percentage and 1.49 GAA this season. 

Author: Glenn Odebralski |

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