Game Recap

Panthers Inch Closer To Southeast Lead

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:48 AM

Florida Panthers

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Panthers Inch Closer To Southeast Lead
Washington Capitals 2, Florida Panthers 4
Florida Panthers' Nathan Horton (16) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the third period of an NHL hockey game, as Washington's Mike Green (52) skates away in Sunrise, Fla., Friday, Feb. 15, 2008. The Panthers won 4-2. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com

The Panthers left Fort Lauderdale for Carolina past midnight Friday evening with the realization they were halfway toward completing what could be their biggest weekend of wins in half a dozen years.

With their 4-2, come-from-behind victory Friday evening over the Capitals at BankAtlantic Center, the Panthers climbed to within two points of the top spot in the Southeast Division. A win Saturday in Carolina could send them into next week tied atop the division with seven weeks remaining in the season.

“We badly want to get to the inside,” said forward Brett McLean. “We badly want to get to the top of the division standings. We needed this win. It was an absolute must win. But we have to win (in Carolina) or this game won’t mean much.”

With the Panthers down 2-1 early in the third period, the Panthers got goals from Nathan Horton and Kamil Kreps before David Booth scored an empty-netter to seal the deal.

The Panthers also did a good job of keeping the league’s leading scorer Alex Ovechkin off the board and allowing him only four shots. Jay Bouwmeester and Bryan Allen were matched against Ovechkin’s line as were the Panther line of Stephen Weiss, Horton and Booth.

“A lot of guys are battling the flu here, playing with it,” said goalie Tomas Vokoun, who stopped who stopped 30 shots for his 25th victory of the year. “I think everybody played hard and we got rewarded at the end.”

Game Highlights
Starting Lineups
 Panthers    Capitals
Hero Cape
 Bransislav Mezei
 Panthers vs Capitals
Quote of the Game
“We badly want to get to the inside. We badly want to get to the top of the division standings. We needed this win. It was an absolute must win. But we have to win (in Carolina) or this game won’t mean much.”
-Forward Brett McLean
Stat of the Game
 Netting all four goals at even strength, the Panthers players finished the game at a mind-boggling +15. David Booth, Nathan Horton, and Jassen Cullimore each a +2.
3 Stars
Presented by Szrio Jewelry
1. Kamil Kreps
2.  Tomas Vokoun
3. Nathan Horton
Ironically, it was a goal allowed by Vokoun that seemed to snap the Panthers out of their funk. After Rostislav Olesz (returning from a 12-game absence) and Alexander Semin exchanged goals through the first 40 minutes to make it a 1-1 game, Tomas Fleischmann beat Vokoun with a harmless wrist shot from just inside the Panther blue line at 57 seconds of the third period to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.

“Just a bad goal,” Vokoun said. “He kind of surprised me with the shot. The puck flies really quick. If you lose focus for one second, the puck can go right in. That’s what happened.”

But the Panthers, who have made a habit of being resilient, came back with three goals in the final 19:03.

First, the Panthers tied it 2-2 at 3:57 when Stephen Weiss tapped a pass from in front of the net to the right side and Nathan Horton, who beat goalie Brent Johnson for his 18th goal of the season.

Kamil Kreps, who had four assists in his last six games but hadn’t scored a goal in 16 games, got the eventual game-winner when he poked the puck past Johnson during a scrum in front of the Washington net. Booth got his 17th goal of the season with 48 seconds remaining in the game.

Bouwmeester said the key to shutting down Ovechkin was “just knowing where they are at all times.”

“We could have been better,” said Bouwmeester, who played a game-high 26:32.

“They dominated us last game in Washington,” said McLean of Ovechkin, Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, who helped the Caps to a 5-3 win Jan. 19. “It wasn’t fun. We wanted to make sure we kind of took the game to them. Semin scored (on the power play), but after they took the lead in the third period we definitely did that.”

The Panthers, with 60 points, are two points behind Carolina and Atlanta, who beat New Jersey in overtime Friday. If the Panthers can beat the Hurricanes, and Atlanta loses on Long Island, the Panthers will have a share of the Southeast Division lead.

When asked if it feels like playoff hockey, Vokoun replied, “It has to.”

“We win or we’re out,” he added. “Look at the standings. We’re one of five teams fighting for maybe one playoff spot. There’s almost less margin for error than in the playoffs.”

The Hurricanes have a huge void to fill with the loss of captain Rod Brind’Amour, who is out four-to-six months with a torn ACL. Brind’Amour led the ‘Canes on on-ice time with 22:27 minutes per game…Washington left immediately after Friday game for Tampa and Saturday’s game against the Lightning. The Capitals have 60 points in the Southeast, the Lightning 55…

scoring summary
1st Period
Rostislav Olesz (8) ASST: Gregory Campbell (8), Kamil Kreps (13)
1 - 0 FLA
2nd Period
PPG - Alexander Semin (15) ASST: Nicklas Backstrom (39), Tomas Fleischmann (16)
1 - 1 Tie
3rd Period
Tomas Fleischmann (7) ASST: David Steckel (6)
2 - 1 WSH
Nathan Horton (18) ASST: Stephen Weiss (24), David Booth (11)
2 - 2 Tie
Kamil Kreps (5) ASST: Ville Peltonen (10), Gregory Campbell (9)
3 - 2 FLA
EN - David Booth (17) ASST: NONE
4 - 2 FLA
penalty summary
1st Period
Alexander Semin  Hi-sticking against  Jassen Cullimore
Nicklas Backstrom  Hooking against  Nathan Horton
Steve Montador  Slashing against  Eric Fehr
Eric Fehr  Roughing against  Steve Montador
Branislav Mezei  Slashing against  Quintin Laing
2nd Period
Stephen Weiss  Hooking against  David Steckel
Shaone Morrisonn  Hooking against  Olli Jokinen
Bryan Allen  Hooking against  Alex Ovechkin
Milan Jurcina  Broken stick
John Erskine  Interference against  David Booth
3rd Period
Matt Pettinger  Interference on goalkeeper against  Tomas Vokoun
Jassen Cullimore  Tripping against  Nicklas Backstrom
goalie stats
Brent Johnson
Brent Johnson
SA: 28TOI: 59:17
Saves: 25EV: 17 - 20
PIM: 0PP: 8 - 8
SV%: .893SH: 0 - 0
Tomas Vokoun
Tomas Vokoun
SA: 32TOI: 60:00
Saves: 30EV: 18 - 19
PIM: 0PP: 9 - 10
SV%: .938SH: 3 - 3