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Capitals vs. Panthers Recap: Caps Clip Cats in OT, 2-1

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An equalizer by Beagle and a three-on-three winner by the hottest hand in DC gives the Caps two points on the road.

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After two straight sub-par outings at home (one a loss, the other a win), the Caps hit the road to take on their former division rivals in lovely Sunrise, Florida. The game itself was a weird one, with plenty of odd bounces and missed calls and all around lackluster play by the good guys. At the end of the night, though, it was a win - and (for now) that's what matters.

Here's Saturday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Evgeny Kuznetsov. So hot right now. Insane.
  • Minus: The overall energy level. It's no secret that the Caps and Panthers aren't exactly bitter rivals, and with both teams having played last night, there probably weren't many people expecting to see a barn-burner of a game. That said... the Caps were much more sluggish than the Panthers, and looked at best disjointed and at worst disinterested for the third-straight game.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

  • A very busy night for Jay Beagle started early when he was whistled for a penalty less than two minutes into the opening period - one of two penalties he would take on the night. The Caps killed both of them off, but it's probably a better game plan if one of the team's better penalty killers stays out of the box.
  • Florida goaltender Al Montoya hasn't had the best track record against the Caps (in an admittedly small sample size). Coming into tonight's action, he'd appeared in four games against Washington and won exactly none of them, with an .886 save percentage and a GAA of 2.73 over that span. You wouldn't know it from the way he shut down the Caps early on. Not that he had to face all that many shots tonight, but when they actually got through, he was sharp.
  • But really, there just were not enough shots getting through to Montoya tonight. Whether it was the sleepy nature of the Caps' game or the stifling defense of the Panthers (or, and more likely, a combination of the two), the Caps weren't able to put much together in the way of a consistent attack - particularly early on, as they generated just six shots on net through the opening 20 minutes.
  • That sleepy start was a problem for both teams, with the first period turning into a slow, sluggish back and forth with just a few flurries around either net. Yes, both teams played last night... but it's October. Why so tired, boys?
  • The Caps were on the wrong side of the penalty calls early on, but finally got a chance on the power play early in the second period and did... well, not a whole heck of a lot. That was a trend throughout the game, really, and one that has carried over (among other troubling trends) the last few games. After starting the season on fire, the Caps' power play has now come up empty on seven straight times with the man advantage. Wouldn't expect that to continue, but it's not fun to watch at the moment.
  • To add insult to injury, the first power-play advantage for the Caps ended in the first goal-against of the game, as Jussi Jokinen forced a turnover just as the Panthers' penalty was expiring and turned it into a two-on-one the other way - and then into the go-ahead goal. Not much Philipp Grubauer could do on that one, as it was basically batted out of the air.
  • In his first outing this year, Philipp Grubauer was not particularly sharp, giving up four goals on just 23 shots against the Oilers. Tonight? Much improved. He, like Montoya, didn't have to face all that many shots tonight, but he made a lot of big saves - particularly early on - to keep his team in this game long enough to tie things up.
  • After some lackluster play through 40 minutes, Barry Trotz decided to shuffle up the lines in the third, and it had an immediate impact as the team took the ice with a couple of strong shifts. It had an even bigger impact as the Caps got the equalizer from Jay Beagle, now alongside Ovechkin and Justin Williams. Hopefully that doesn't mean Beagle takes over as top-line center, of course, but in the moment it worked out well.
  • It almost didn't, as Florida decided to challenge the Caps' goal on the grounds of goaltender interference. Having had two previous experiences with the coach's challenge regarding goaltender interference (and with neither creating a particularly clear picture of what is and isn't considered interference), it was anyone's guess what the result would be. This time it thankfully went in the Caps' favor, which was probably the right call... but frankly it was no less confusing than the other two. If you're so inclined, you can read the very informative explanation from the League for why it wasn't goaltender interference.
  • Hey, remember that challenge that was overturned for Florida? Remember how it cost them their timeout? That came up huge in the overtime, as the Panthers iced the puck, couldn't call timeout to rest their troops and then had to face a Russian trio. After that... well, Evgeny Kuznetsov is just really, really good at hockey.

So a bad game turned good in the blink of an eye, and the Caps steal two points from Florida with an overtime victory courtesy of the hottest hand in the League. Was it pretty? Nope. Was it a win? Absolutely. On to Manhattan, and a chance to do the same against the Rangers... hopefully with a better performance.

Game highlights: