WASHINGTON – The Florida Panthers were preparing to face Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington Capitals when their pre-game video session was cut short less than halfway through because the visitors’ projector broke.
“We didn’t get to go over most of our stuff, including the power play,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “Maybe it’s a good thing.”
Sure worked out OK. Stephen Weiss, Bryan McCabe and Jay Bouwmeester scored power-play goals in the first period, Florida held Ovechkin without a point until the final minute, and the Panthers beat the Southeast Division-leading Capitals 6-2 Sunday.
Florida came in having scored on fewer than 15 per cent of its man-advantage chances this season, ranking 26th of 30 NHL teams. But its power play was just fine on this day.
“Maybe that’s the secret: We’ve got to forgo the preparation,” DeBoer said. “It clicked tonight and hopefully we can continue that.”
McCabe finished with three assists, and Weiss had two. Florida’s other goals were scored by rookie Michael Frolik, Richard Zednik and Jassen Cullimore.
“It was such a boost to our confidence to just get our power play going. It’s been so long,” McCabe said. “We’ve been struggling immensely of late.”
The Capitals – coming off a rousing overtime victory Saturday at Eastern Conference-leading Boston – heard boos in their building and pulled starting goalie Jose Theodore after falling behind 4-1 in the opening period.
“Lots of mistakes,” said Ovechkin, whose league-leading 46th goal came with 22 seconds left.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was not pleased with his team’s performance but was not willing to concede that it was understandable given what happened in Boston.
“We got beat to every loose puck. It seemed like they had the puck in the power play for the whole two minutes in our zone every time,” Boudreau said. “I can’t sugar coat it and I can’t find excuses for it. We weren’t very good.”
The Panthers, meanwhile, turned things around one day after a 7-2 loss at New Jersey. Florida entered Sunday second in the Southeast Division and seventh in the East, barely in playoff position.
Washington started well, going up 1-0 less than 1 1/2 minutes into the game on Alexander Semin’s power-play goal off an assist from Brooks Laich. But after that, Panthers goalie Craig Anderson and his defence settled down.
“We very easily could have said, ‘Oh, here we go again. It’s not our night.’ But we buckled down and really took it to them after that,” McCabe said.
Florida could have had even more. With Washington still ahead, Theodore was whistled for throwing his stick at the puck, which gave the Panthers a penalty shot. Theodore’s glove save on David Booth’s attempt preserved Washington’s lead – for 13 seconds.
That’s how long it took for Florida to tie the game, starting a perfect 3-for-3 showing on the man-advantage in the first period: Weiss scored at 3:53 off McCabe’s assist, McCabe scored at 6:59, and Bouwmeester made it 3-1 with 14:19 gone off assists from Weiss and McCabe.
Boudreau might not have wanted to talk about a letdown after beating Boston, DeBoer did think that might have played a role in Sunday’s outcome.
“I thought they were a little bit flat,” Florida’s coach said, “and to our credit we took advantage of it.”
Notes: Washington was whistled for six penalties, twice as many as Florida. “Sometimes, the referees don’t see their penalties,” Ovechkin said. “They see more our penalties.” . . . Florida has alternated wins and losses over its past nine games. … The Capitals recalled F Jay Beagle from AHL affiliate Hershey. RW Viktor Kozlov sat out for the 10th time in 12 games because of a groin injury. … Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom extended his point streak to a career-high 10 games. … Washington broke a franchise record with its 11th consecutive sellout.