Playing without captain and leading scorer Alex Ovechkin for the second night in a row due to an upper body injury, the Washingt0n Capitals got a solid effort from goalie Michal Neuvirth and goals from Nick Backstrom and John Carlson — his first of the season — to force overtime and a shootout, where all three Caps shooters scored to take two points from former Southeast Division foe Florida Panthers. The resulting 3-2 win evens the Caps record at 7-7-0, good for third place in their new digs, the Metropolitan Division, with 14 points.
Neuvirth, starting in place of Braden Holtby, who played Friday night and went around with noted pugilist Ray Emery, saved 33 of the 35 shots sent his way, including 19 of 20 at even strength. He allowed a goal to the first shooter in the skills competition, Aleksander Barkov, but denied Jonathan Huberdeau, which led to Nick Backstrom sealing the deal on the next shot.
Washington broke out on top in the first period with the refigured first line of Backstrom, Eric Fehr and Martin Erat. The Caps made an easy transition off a defensive zone faceoff through the neutral zone and into Panthers territory. Fehr brought the puck across the blue line and seemed to fumble it as he made his way into the slot.
But Backstrom alertly corralled the puck and whipped it past a seemingly stunned Scott Clemmensen for his fifth goal of the season, and third in the two games that Ovechkin has been absent.
In the second period, a very poor pass from Brooks Laich, who was covering the left point after Alexander Urbom pinched in on a play, led to Scottie Upshall springing Jesse Winchester on a breakaway. Despite Laich hooking Winchester the last 40 feet of the sprint, the Florida forward got enough on the shot to beat Neuvirth five-hole.
But just 36 seconds later, John Carlson took a nifty feed by Michael Latta on a controlled break and roofed it over Clemmensen’s right shoulder to give the Caps a 2-1 lead after two.
Midway through the third, the Caps had an extended offensive possession on the power play with several good chances, including Mike Green ringing one off the post, but could not get a shot to fall.
But former Caps have a way of haunting the current squad, and Saturday night would be no different. Old friend Tomas Fleischmann tied things up with just 2:38 remaining as the Panthers skated on a 4-on-3.
The power play goal against breaks the Caps streak of 35 consecutive penalty kills.
Despite the Caps getting a power play in the overtime, the extra session ended scoreless. Mikhail Grabovski led off for the Caps in the shootout and made a beautiful move, carrying in on his forehand, then faking a slap shot before slipping it to his backhand and getting the puck just out of the reach of Clemmensen.
Barkov used almost the exact same move against Neuvirth at the other end to even things up.
Brooks Laich was up next, and through he faked himself out — he missed the puck with his last attempt at a deke — the puck eluded Clemmensen five-hole. With the goal, Laich moves to 6-for-18 (33.3%) career in the shootout.
Neuvirth then made a glove save on second-year center Jonathan Huberdeau to set up Backstrom’s dramatic game-winner. Backstrom came in forehand all the way and simply beat Clemmensen without any trickery whatsoever to deliver the extra point to the Capitals.
The Caps have won 18 of the last 23 meetings with the Panthers.
Washington is off until Tuesday night, when they host the New York Islanders at 7:00 pm.