After beating the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, the Capitals met them again for the second time in as many days – this time in sunny (but not so warm) Florida. The Caps were without the services of Alex Semin, Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon and DJ King. 32-year old Brian Willsie, who has 12 goals and 21 assists with the Hershey Bears, got the call up on Monday. Meanwhile, defensemen Tom Poti and Tyler Sloan were also scratches with John Erskine suiting up. Speaking of Tom Poti, he has to worry about more than his opponent on road trips. The veteran player suffers from a slew of food allergies and has to make special arrangements to accommodate his dietary needs when he’s on the road or he could become gravely ill. As if taking a puck to the face isn’t enough to deal with.
The boys didn’t get off on the right foot in the opening period with two damaging penalties (Mike Knuble for interference and an uncharacteristic boarding call on Nick Backstrom). That gave the Panthers a rare 5-on-3 and resulted in a power play goal from familiar face Mike Santorelli. Merely two minutes later, Marty Reasoner tallied again for the Cats, giving them a 2-0 lead. Michal Neuvirth had to stand on his head for the period as his team was outshot by the Panthers 20-7 – a dismal number for the visitors that surely had Gabby ranting and raving during the intermission.
End of first: Panthers 2 – Caps 0
The Caps opened the second period on the power play after a first period holding call on Bryan Allen. They got an added bonus of a 10-second 5-on-3 when Mike Weaver took a seat for boarding. The boys could not convert on the power play despite picking up the pace as far as shots on goal. Perhaps the Caps were looking ahead to the Lightning, but whatever the case, they certainly weren’t focusing on avoiding costly penalties. With Jason Chimera already in the sin bin, he was joined by John Carlson, giving the Cats their second two-man advantage of the game. Always stationing his big frame in front of the net, Hockey Mom fave David Booth netted the power play marker to give Florida a three-goal lead.
Thankfully, the Caps weren’t far behind, as Marcus Johansson lit the lamp with help from Laich and Willsie. Then came a lovely pass from Ovechkin to Mike Knuble, who was parked on the right side of the net. Knuble roofed it over the glove of Tomas Vokoun and cut the deficit to one goal.
End of second: Panthers 3 – Caps 2
Marcus Johansson tipped one in from behind the net at 7:12 in the third to tie it up at 3 apiece. The young Swede came -oh so close- to notching a hat trick minutes later but was stopped by Vokoun. The boys got their sixth power play opportunity midway through the final stanza when Evgeny Dadonov (who happens to be on the NHL All-Stars Rookie roster) took a penalty. The Caps’ power play, which propelled them to the top of the league last year, has all but disappeared despite much tinkering on the part of Bruce Boudreau. As the clock ticked below the 60 second mark, the Caps amassed in front of Vokoun’s crease trying to poke in the puck.
At the four-minute point of the OT period, Corey Stillman had a stellar shot on Neuvy and was tripped up by Mike Green (I must point out that he made a dive worthy of at least a bronze medal to get the whistle – drama). As the clock ticked down, the Capitals found themselves short-handed. Neuvirth made some outstanding saves but Dennis Wideman was successful in evading Scott Hannan to roof the game winning goal. Not a great way to start a road trip – a 4-3 loss, especially with the dangerous Lightning flashing on the horizon.
To leave you on a lighter note, if you didn’t make it to Caps Care Casino Night (where the team raised more than $300,000 for charity), Capitals News Network has some fabulous photos of the festive evening. In the meantime, here’s hoping the Caps come out much stronger tomorrow night…