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Capitals vs. Panthers Game Two Recap: Panthers Overwhelm Caps With 5-1 Win

The Capitals only manage one goal amidst many defensive breakdowns as the Panthers storm back in Game 2 to even the Round 1 series.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

After an excellent outing in Sunrise on Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals return to FLA Live Arena to face the Florida Panthers for Game 2 of their Round 1 series. The Caps, the heavy underdogs in this series, were far and away the better team in Game 1 and jumped out to a 1-0 series lead with a 4-2 win. The Panthers will be looking to even things up tonight, but the Caps are hoping to keep the pressure on the Cats and steal a second game in Florida.

After missing most of Tuesday night’s game with a lower-body injury, Tom Wilson remains out of the lineup tonight. Keeping that in mind, Washington’s lines looked like this in warmups:

With Wilson out of the lineup, Brett Leason draws in and makes his first NHL playoff appearance. Leason slots in as the fourth line right wing, bumping Garnet Hathaway up to the third line alongside Mantha and Eller. The goaltending situation is as it was on Tuesday: Vitek Vanecek in net for Washington, Sergei Bobrovsky in net for Florida.

Game 2. Let’s go.

Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Capitals’ first 16 minutes of this game? Incredible! They absolutely stifled the Panthers, putting so much pressure on Florida that they only managed two shots on goal. If they had kept that momentum going, this game could have ended quite differently. Also, Ilya Samsonov was stellar in his relief appearance.

Minus: Just one? Okay, well this was not Vitek Vanecek’s night. While not all five goals against were his fault, he let in two particularly awful goals and just looked uncomfortable in net the entire 40 minutes he played. Some context: Vanecek made as many saves in 40 minutes as Samsonov made in 12.

And now, congrats on the postseason debut, Leason!

Twelve more notes on the game:

1. Halfway through the first period, Nicklas Backstrom took a hooking penalty on Jonathan Huberdeau and gave the Panthers the game’s first power play. Florida’s power play went 0-for-2 on Tuesday night, with the Caps’ PK keeping them well in check. T.J. Oshie had an incredible shorthanded chance with about 30 seconds remaining in Backstrom’s penalty, but he hit the left post. But no matter, Washington’s penalty kill did an incredible job at stifling Florida’s man-advantage in their initial zone time and then stifling their neutral zone movement after the first clear. The Panthers did not record a SOG on this power play, and shots are 7-2 in favor of the Caps with 7:45 left in the first.

2. Aaron Ekblad made it 1-0 at 16:20 of the first with a lucky bouncing shot. Ekblad’s right point shot made a strange deflection off Martin Fehervary, who was in front to block the shot, and bounced right past Vitek Vanecek.

Despite the Capitals supremely outplaying the Panthers to start the game, it was Florida getting on the board first.

3. Aleksander Barkov doubled up Florida’s lead with 2:02 to go in the first frame. Backstrom got outmuscled and outmaneuvered by Huberdeau in the right circle, and Huberdeau was able to feed a nice backhand pass to Barkov for him to just tap past Vanecek.

Hello, momentum shift.

4. To make matters worse, the Caps took a delay of game penalty with 1:54 left after skying the puck over the glass. Fortunately, Washington’s penalty kill was still firing on all cylinders and kept the Panthers from adding a third goal to the scoresheet before the first intermission. 2-0 Florida after 20.

5. Garnet Hathaway and Radko Gudas took matching roughing minors just 38 seconds into the second period, cueing up some 4-on-4 hockey. The call on Hathaway was questionable, but T.J. Oshie took care of that by drawing a hooking penalty on Anton Lundell to give the Caps a 4-on-3 power play for 30 seconds.

After Hathaway and Gudas left the box, it only took Nicklas Backstrom six seconds to get the Caps on the board. Backstrom called his own number on the power play and fired a sharp angle shot on net that zipped over Sergei Bobrovsky’s shoulder.

6. Mason Marchment scored the Panthers’ third goal just 27 seconds after Backstrom’s tally. He had plenty of room to skate into the right circle and line his shot up, which went five-hole on Vanecek. The first two Florida goals were iffy on Vanecek, but this was one he really should have had.

This makes three goals on seven shots for the Panthers.

7. The Capitals got a four-minute power play opportunity when Marchment took minor penalties for roughing and slashing at 5:58 of the second. Washington’s power play has converted twice in this series, once on Tuesday and once to open the Caps’ scoring tonight. Unfortunately, they were not so successful this time around. At one point, both John Carlson and Conor Sheary whiffed on shots and Evgeny Kuznetsov whiffed on a pass, all in the span of maybe 15 seconds. Bobrovsky also made a few key saves, especially on Alex Ovechkin, to keep the Caps’ power play off the board here. Big wasted opportunity vibes here, folks.

8. With 4:36 to go in the second, Anton Lundell put the Panthers up 4-1 after a bad turnover by Hathaway and Lars Eller. Carter Verhaeghe snagged the puck and got it to Lundell, who got a mini give-and-go with Sam Reinhart going in the crease to pull Vanecek out of position.

A defensive breakdown that leads to a goal against? Shocking!

9. 2:08 after Lundell’s goal, Verhaeghe extended Florida’s lead to 5-1 with an absolute rocket of a shot. Gudas sprung Verhaeghe at the blue line, and Verhaeghe ripped the puck between Nick Jensen and Dmitry Orlov and beat Vanecek glove-side.

What are the odds that Ilya Samsonov is in net to start the third?

10. Answer: 100%. Ilya Samsonov led the Caps onto the ice after second intermission after Vitek Vanecek allowed five goals on just 18 shots.

11. Garnet Hathaway took exception to a walloping hit Patric Hornqvist laid on Marcus Johansson, so he made some retaliatory contact. Unfortunately for him, he was dinged for boarding Hornqvist and took a trip to the sin bin just under halfway through the third. Fortunately for him and the Caps, Washington’s penalty kill continued its strong work tonight and kept the Panthers’ power play power-less on the night.

12. Nic Dowd was called for slashing with 4:18 left, putting the Caps on the PK once again. That was of no concern to Washington but just as Dowd’s penalty was expiring, Hathaway was called for a 10-minute misconduct after a bit of a kerfuffle with who else but Patric Hornqvist. Hathaway hit the showers early, and the rest of the Caps probably wished they could do the same. Panthers take Game 2, 5-1.

Up next for the Caps: heading back to DC for Game 3 of the series on Saturday, May 6 at 1pm ET.