The Florida Panthers came to visit the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center last night, hoping to leave the building with two points in their quest to achieve a playoff berth. They left empty-handed.
The Caps didn't look like the same team who hosted the LA Kings last Thursday. Other than scoring the first goal early in the game (Eric Fehr's tally just 33 seconds after the first puck drop), there were few similarities between the two contests, especially the defensive performance. There were fewer penalties, and the Caps finally ended a 13-game streak of allowing at least one goal during the penalty kill.
Mike Green continues to set the bar higher and higher for NHL defenseman. Last night, he scored not one but two goals, one on the power play and one empty-netter. He now has 19 goals, 14 power play goals, and 46 points on the season. He leads NHL defenseman in all three categories.
Fehr's goal was the third he's scored in four games (he now has six for the season). In his last five games, he had 20 shots. Prior to that, he had 58 total shots in 28 games.
With five minutes left in the game and the Caps leading by just one goal, Shaone Morrisonn put his teammates in a precarious position when he checked Panthers forward Cory Stillman into the boards from behind. Morrisonn was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The Caps were already on a penalty kill at the time, with Sergei Fedorov in the box for interference; now they had to defend a 5-on-3 for just over a minute and play the remainder of the game 5-on-4. The penalty kill unit came through big for the Caps, stopping seven shots during the final five minutes to preserve their lead. Green gave the Caps an insurance goal with just over a minute left when he sent the puck 168 feet into the empty net after the Panthers pulled Goalie Tomas Vokoun for the extra skater.
Jose' Theodore earned first star of the game for blocking 20 shots and allowing just one goal, and David Steckel's assist, 7-for-11 (64%) faceoff performance, and four blocked shots during the penalty kill earned him second star.
Final score: Caps 3, Panthers 1. The Caps will face the Panthers again in just a week when they travel to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina in back-to-back away games next weekend.