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Capitals vs. Panthers Recap: Come for the Dull, Stay for the Shootout; Caps Fall to Cats

The old joke applies here... How did this game go 20 rounds in the shootout? Because no one could win Round 19. It was a record-setting night, but it did not end the way the Caps might have hoped.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

[GameCenter - Ice Tracker - Game Summary - Event Summary - Shot Report - Faceoff Summary - Play-by-Play - Home TOI - Visitor TOI - Advanced Stats at: war-on-ice, hockeystats, Natural Stat Trick]

It had all the makings of a thoroughly forgettable game - a sparse crowd, an aesthetically grisly game on the ice.  But the Washington Capitals managed to tie the game on a power play late in the second period, the last goal that would be scored in the first 65 minutes of the game.  That set the stage for the shootout.  Perhaps it was fitting that two teams that could not scratch out an advantage over 65 minutes would need 20 rounds of the shootout to settle matters.  Unfortunately for Caps fans, it would be the Panthers who would get the last goal in the skills phase, taking the 2-1 decision.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The Capitals now have the two longest shootouts in NHL history.  The 20 rounds against the Panthers eclipsed the 15-round shootout they had against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 25, 2005.  No, it is not the longest shootout in North American pro hockey.  Twice, a shootout went to 21 rounds in the ECHL; once in 1992 and again in 2013.
  • Lost in the fog of shooter after shooter in the extra-extra session is the fact that the Caps now have points in six straight games (4-0-2) and have a record of 10-5-4 against Eastern Conference teams.
  • The shootout broke a string of 24 games for the Caps without appearing in one.  The last time they appeared in the shootout was in Game 5 of the season, a 2-1 win over these same Florida Panthers.
  • After a pair of games in which the Caps combined for ten power play chances, they returned to an old pattern.  The had only two power plays, making it 15 times in 30 games that the Caps have had two or fewer power play opportunities in a game.
  • It could have been historic for Brooks Orpik.  The defenseman had never recorded a game-winning goal in the regular season of his 12-year career, and he had never taken a shootout turn since the shootout was introduced in the 2005-2006 season.  He scored what could have been the game-winning, shootout goal, but alas, the rounds marched on when Dylan Olsen tied things up for the Panthers in the bottom of the 17th round.
  • The hit meter at BB&T Arena had to be stuck in the "on" position.  The Caps and Panthers were credited with a combined total of 98 hits.  Eight players were credited with five or more.  Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, and Nate Schmidt were the only Caps held off the hit parade; Dmitry Kulikov, Aleksander Barkov, Sean Bergenheim, and Brian Campbell for the Panthers.
  • How dull was it over the first 65 minutes?  The teams combined for just 53 shots on goal, neither team getting to 30 (Caps: 24; Panthers: 29), and there were just 90 shot attempts overall.
  • The top line had 10 of the 24 shots on goal for the Caps.  The second line of Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Troy Brouwer managed only two, and Kuznetsov had the only shot at even strength for that line.
  • Brouwer scored on his only shot on goal of the game, that coming on a follow up of his own shot attempt on a power play.  That makes three goals in four games for Brouwer.
  • You have a save percentage of .966 in the 65-minute portion of the game.  Then you have a .950 save percentage in the skills competition (edit: ok, it was .700, which still isn't terrible for a shootout).  And you lose.  Tough night for Braden Holtby, but he'll have stories for his son about this one.

In the end, the Caps split the loaf.  The never found a way to deal with the Panthers' ability to angle them into the wall at the blue line when the Caps tried to gain the offensive zone under control.  But they did persevere and made good on a rare power play opportunity to grab a standings point.  The Caps, who came into the game with only one win in 13 tries when allowing the first goal, might consider themselves fortunate to have earned at least one point and to have had as many opportunities to win the second point in the shootout.  It was a bizarre and, ultimately, unfortunate ending, but in its way it was an entertaining theater of the absurd.

Game highlights: