THE RESULT:  As has been the case most of the time on the current run of success for the Washington Capitals, this one didn't come easy.  But the Caps held on at the end to defeat a tired--but game--Florida Panthers team 3-2, before a capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

Florida was playing their third game in four nights and fifth in seven days.  The Caps had not played since Tuesday night's 1-0 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.

It also marked the first legitimate highlight reel goal of the season for the Washington captain, the Great Eight, Alex Ovechkin.  Mike Knuble sprung Ovechkin with a long head-man pass, allowing the superstar to break in on goalie Scott Clemmensen alone, with only Bryan McCabe trailing.

Ovi broke in at the face-off circle and got his wrist shot off just as McCabe's stick caught Ovechkin's right skate blade, sending the winger sprawling through the air and crashing into the goalie just after the puck sailed past his glove hand.

"It was one move, and puck goes in.  Finally." said a smiling Ovechkin in the media scrum after the game.

The tally gave the Caps a two-goal cushion, which was key as Florida drew within one 2:18 later as Evgeny Dadonov banged home a rebound past Semyon Varlamov (25 saves on 27 shots) while the Panthers were playing six-on-five. 

Nicklas Backstrom took an uncharacteristic bad penalty with just over one minute to go, but the Capitals penalty killers staved off the onslaught, and Washington was able to collect two more points within the division.

The win gives the Caps 54 points (24-12-6), and they are now 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.

"Just to get the lead in the third period was like a breath of fresh air,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “You come off of a shutout [Tuesday's 1-0 overtime loss to Tampa Bay] and it seems you’re never going to score and every goal you get is such a difficult goal. You wonder if you’re ever going to score again.”

The other heroes of this game were Mike Green and Eric Fehr, both of whom scored a goal and had a helper on the other's tally.

Fehr camped out in the crease and one-timed Green's feed past a defenseless Clemmensen, and Fehr returned the favor, leading Green perfectly into the high slot on the power play, where he deposited a backhand into the Florida goal.

Of Fehr, Boudreau said, "“He’s getting more confidence. He’s a guy that lives in confidence and he’s playing a little bit more. He started scoring a lot of his goals in the middle to latter half of the year last year too, so maybe he’s a naturally slow starter.”

"My confidence is pretty good," Fehr said from his locker room stall. "I thought Greener made a nice play to me out front--I really couldn't miss that one--and Green made a nice shot on the power play."

Green returned the compliment on Fehr's assist on the power play.  "“It was a great pass by Eric,” says Green. “It looked like he was going to shoot there for a second. I thought he was going to shoot, so I cut into the middle to maybe get a rebound or something. He made a great play and I just had to put it into the net.”

It was just Washington's eighth goal in their last 67 power play chances (11.9 %), but it could not have come at a more opportune time--13:07 of the third period in a tie game, and just 16 seconds after killing off a Florida extra-man opportunity.  The Caps killed all four Florida power plays, and have killed 33 of 34 over the last nine games (97.1 %).

The Capitals now have a couple days off before a two-game road trip on consecutive nights through the state of Florida, facing these Panthers on Tuesday and the Lightning on Wednesday.  There are no easy games in the Southeast Division anymore, and the Caps will look to keep the momentum they've generated the last ten games into the short road trip.

Every two points matter from here on out.

THE GOOD: It's a POWER PLAY GOAL!  Caps finally get one with the extra-man, and a nice finish from Green with good, honest hard work from Fehr. "I thought we were getting pretty good entries," Fehr said. "When you're doing that you're going to get a chance to score. Luckily we were able to get one at the end when we really needed one."

THE BAD:  Tom Poti and Jeff Schultz.  Both struggling in return from injury, paired together they really needed to be managed all night.  Poti is still not right--his mobility is severely limited and it's reducing his effectiveness.  He's supposed to be the puck-handler in that pairing and he just doesn't have the wheels yet.

THE UGLY: Nick Backstrom's cross-checking penalty with 1:05 remaining in a one-goal game.  Already playing 6-on-5, Nicky let his emotions get to him and he leveled a Panthers player along the side boards.  It was an easy call, and as he left the ice, he was yelling at someone, just hard to say whom.  A Panther player?  The referee?  Himself?  Regardless, a veteran can't take that penalty in a one-goal game.

THE STATS: Eric Fehr (8) from Mike Green (12) and Mathieu Perreault (3) at 5:32 of 2nd.  Mike Green (8) from Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin (29) at 13:07 of 3rd (PP). Alex Ovechkin (15) from Mike Knuble (9) and Nick Backstrom (27) at 18:23 of 3rd.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday at Florida Panthers at 7:30 pm from Sunrise, FL.


3. Alex Ovechkin.  Goal and assist. Didn't look so hot in the first playing with strange linemates, but once paired up with 19 and 22 in the third, did some damage.  First real highlight reel goal of the season.
2. Mike Green.  Goal and assist.  Insinuating himself in the play offensively while still minding his own end. It was Green's first multi-point game since Nov. 14 against Atlanta.  Feeling better?
1. Eric Fehr.  Goal and assist.  F-16 is making himself a presence in front of the net.  The new baker in town.