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Capitals vs. Panthers Game 4 Recap: Cats Even Series in 3-2 OT Win

Florida comes out on top in tonight’s parade to the penalty box, with Verhaeghe scoring the overtime game-winner

Florida Panthers v Washington Capitals - Game Four Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

Alright, boys and girls and babes, time for Game 4 between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers. The Capitals have the opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead after their decisive Game 3 victory on Saturday, but don’t count the Panthers out just yet. So, which will it be: the Caps pushing the Cats to the brink, or the Cats making this a best-of-3 series?

Tonight’s lines are more of the same for Washington:

Tom Wilson is still out of the lineup, and Connor McMichael still gets a sweater in his place. Ilya Samsonov had an incredible outing against the Panthers on Saturday afternoon, and he’ll be looking to keep that momentum going tonight. Sergei Bobrovsky is once again in net for Florida, with hopes of a rebound performance on his mind.

Game 4. Let’s go.

Here’s Monday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: After a great game on Saturday, Ilya Samsonov kept up his strong play into tonight. He absolutely kept the Caps in the game, especially in the second period.

Minus: 16 shots on goal is not good enough in any game, let alone in the postseason.

And now, welcome back to Capital One, Juan Soto!

Ten more notes on the game:

1. As expected, the game got off to quite a physical start and Garnet Hathaway and Aaron Ekblad were called for matching roughing minors just 31 seconds after puck drop. Ilya Samsonov made a few excellent saves, including a particularly flashy pad save on Sam Bennet. No goal for either team during this 4-on-4 hockey.

As soon as Hathaway and Ekblad returned to the ice, Sam Reinhart caught Marcus Johansson up high and took a seat for slashing. Cue Washington’s power play, which has been solid through the first three games of the series. The Caps managed to get two shots off on this man advantage, but they unfortunately could not convert. Still 0-0 with just over 15 minutes to go.

2. With 12:59 left, Sam Bennett was called for tripping Dmitry Orlov. The trend so far seems to be “Panthers taking silly and obvious penalties and then being upset when they get called.” Now would be a great time to make the Panthers pay for their early lack of discipline, and thankfully it only took 14 seconds for the Caps to convert. John Carlson fired the puck from above the right circle and it bounced off a jumping T.J. Oshie’s skate and past Sergei Bobrovsky. It felt a bit like the universe balancing things out after Ekblad’s weird bouncing shot in Game 2. This is Oshie’s third goal in four games this postseason, and his second power play tally. With the secondary assist on the tally, Nicklas Backstrom now has five points (1G, 4A) this series, which leads the team.

You’re absolutely right, Juan Soto!

3. Anthony Mantha and Jonathan Huberdeau took matching minors for interference and tripping respectively, cueing up some more 4-on-4 hockey at 13:11 of the first. Aaron Ekblad and Carter Verhaeghe got a 2-on-1 going, and Verhaeghe fumbled the bouncing puck a bit but managed to get it past Ilya Samsonov at 14:08. John Carlson was caught way at the other end of the ice, leaving Martin Fehervary alone to try and defend. Clearly that did not work out well for Washington, and Florida was able to tie things up.

4. Justin Schultz was called for interference just one second before the Mantha and Huberdeau penalties expired, putting the Panthers on the power play for the first time tonight. Washington’s penalty kill has been incredibly effective this series, and that did not change this time around. Oshie and Trevor van Riemsdyk made two key shot blocks on the PK, and the Panthers did not record a shot on goal.

5. Ben Chiarot took a delay-of-game penalty after yeeting the puck over the glass just 12 seconds into the second period, yet another unnecessary penalty for the Panthers. Alex Ovechkin had a great opportunity in the slot about halfway through the power play, but Eetu Luostarinen made a great block to negate the chance. The Panthers’ power play was much better this time around, doing more to limit Washington’s chances and keeping them from doing much of anything.

6. Martin Fehervary was called for hooking Claude Giroux in front of Samsonov at 15:20 of the second, giving Florida their second man-advantage of the night. The Panthers once again had five forwards out there to start the power play, and once again it did not work for them. The Panthers’ power play is now 0-for-11 this series. Also, for those of you keeping track at home, this is the ninth minor penalty of the game. It’s less than 25 minutes in.

Oh wait, make that 10 minors in 27 minutes! Mason Marchment drew a high-sticking penalty on Fehervary after a net-front scuffle in front of Samsonov. The Caps and Panthers have played just 9:17 of 5-on-5 hockey so far tonight. Washington’s PK remained perfect on the series, once again stifling Florida’s PP. Fehervary actually got a clean breakaway chance as soon as he exited the box, but he had trouble controlling the bouncing puck and Bobrovsky read the puck well to make the stop on a five-hole shot.

7. After Samsonov made an incredible save on Verhaeghe, Evgeny Kuznsetov was called for slashing Verhaeghe to continue this period’s parade to the penalty box at 10:42. The Capitals got a great shorthanded chance but could not convert, but the PK did its job once again and held Florida’s PP off the board, which is now 0-for-13 this series.

With 6:05 to go in the middle frame, Brandon Montour was called for hooking on Nicklas Backstrom. With 43 seconds left on that penalty, Sergei Bobrovsky got called for tripping Kuznetsov (they probably shouldn’t have called this, but the refs are making tonight their show and who are we to stop them?). Florida’s penalty kill was very effective this go around, generating a shorthanded chance of their own at 4-on-5 and holding the Caps off the board. Also, in case you’re curious, this makes 13 minor penalties in 35 minutes.

TL;DR the second period summary is “5-on-5 hockey? Never heard of her.” The Caps were lucky to get out of the middle frame still tied at 1-1, as shot attempts were 25-6 in favor of the Panthers that period.

8. After a penalty-filled first 40, the refs let the Caps and Cats play in the third. Both teams were having trouble getting the puck to the net, but the simplified game was probably a welcome change.

Evgeny Kuznetsov finally broke the tie with 10:29 to go in the second on what has become his trademark sharp-angle shot to cap off a breakaway. The rush came after T.J. Oshie laid a massive open-ice hit on Sam Bennett, who turned the puck over to Alex Ovechkin (the hit went uncalled, and it probably shouldn’t have). Ovechkin passed to Kuznetsov to spring him for the breakaway, and Bird Man put the Caps up 2-1. Despite being outshot 25-13, the Caps now hold the lead.

Additionally, with the primary assist on the goal, Ovechkin now has a point (1G, 4A) in every game this series.

9. The Panthers pulled Bobrovsky with 3:09 to go, and Hathaway almost iced the game immediately but just missed the goal on an empty net shot. Florida had a lot of pressure on Samsonov and the Caps in these final few minutes, and Sam Reinhart managed to covert on a bouncing puck in the high slot to tie the game with 2:04 to go. He swung wildly at the puck, and it found its way to the back of the net. Brand new hockey game, folks, and this one needs overtime.

10. Carter Verhaeghe won it for Florida at 5:03 of OT on a pad save rebound from Samsonov. The play was reviewed for goaltender interference after Jonathan Huberdeau may have impeded Samsonov in the crease, but the call on the ice stands after a (very) quick review.

Up next for the Caps: returning to Florida for Game 5 of the series on Wednesday at 7:30PM.