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Caps, Holtby holds Panthers scoreless

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby says he doesn't draw inspiration from criticism.

Yet one day after Washington general manager George McPhee said he needed better play from his goaltenders, Holtby posted the team's first shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night in the Verizon Center.

"Other people saying that doesn't even come to the pressure we put on ourselves in this room," Holtby said.

Troy Brouwer scored two goals and Holtby stopped all 27 shots he faced to notch his fourth career shutout as the Capitals claimed their most decisive victory of the season.

The Capitals (3-8-1) stopped a three-game losing streak and the Panthers (4-6-1) saw their 3-0-1 streak halted in the final game of a four-game road trip.

The Capitals' third win of the season came after a players-only meeting before the game.

"The intensity was unbelievable," said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored his fourth goal of the season. "Everybody was focused on not joking around. That's how we have to play."

The Panthers and Capitals will face each other again Tuesday night in Sunrise, Fla.

"I think we played a tired game," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Whether we are or not, that's a moot point. You've got a hockey game to play. I'm certain we didn't have the energy to give ourselves a good enough chance to win."

Holtby entered the game with a 1-4-0 record and an unsightly 4.73 goals-against average, but he was sharp the entire night. He also picked up his first assist of the season on Brouwer's second goal.

Holtby set the tone early in the first period when he snared a shot by Kris Versteeg on a 2-on-1 with Jonathan Huberdeau.

"He looked like his old self there," Capitals forward Jason Chimera said. "He calmed himself down a bit and he stood tall. We need that from him and from everyone else."

Joel Ward, Ovechkin and Mathieu Perreault also scored for the Capitals, who had lost five of their previous six.

The Capitals entered the game with a history of dreadful second periods. They were coming off a loss in Pittsburgh in which they were outscored 5-0 in the second period, and they had been outscored 19-6 in second periods in their previous 11 games.

That all changed against the Panthers when goals by Brouwer and Ward gave the Capitals a 3-0 lead.

On Brouwer's goal, Holtby fired a 110-foot pass to Brouwer, who sneaked behind the Panthers' defense on a line change during a Washington power play early in the second period. Brouwer carried the puck over the blue line and blasted a shot inside the left post for his fourth goal of the season.

"He moves the puck as well as any goalie and for him to have the vision to see up the ice and to be able to make that pass is pretty special," Brouwer said.

Washington made it 3-0 with 8:05 remaining in the period when Perreault and Eric Fehr won a battle along the boards with Versteeg and Brian Campbell, allowing Fehr to find Ward for a snap shot inside the right post for his team-high fifth goal of the season.

Ovechkin made it 4-0 when he blasted a snap shot past Jose Theodore off a faceoff win by Mike Ribeiro 3:49 into the third period. It was Ovechkin's fourth goal of the season and first at even strength.

Perreault finished it off for the Caps with his first of the season at 9:28 of the third period. It was Washington's fifth goal on 21 shots, forcing Dineen to lift Theodore for Scott Clemmensen. In the last 10 1/2 minutes, Clemmensen stopped all four shots he faced.

"When there are (five) goals scored, there are normally breakdowns and sloppiness and things like that, mistakes," Campbell said. "I think there were multiple mistakes that compounded it and the puck ends up in your net."

NOTES: The Capitals made right winger Marcus Johansson a healthy scratch for the third time in 12 games. Johansson, who had 14 goals and 46 points last season, has just one goal and four shots and is a team-worst minus-7 in nine games. "His confidence might be one of the problems with his play." Capitals coach Adam Oates said. ... Dineen and Oates combined to play in 2,525 NHL games during their careers. The Panthers got off to the worst start in the NHL by losing five of their first six games before going 3-0-1. The Capitals began the season with two wins in their first 12 games. "I can certainly understand how the heartbeat of a season has highs and lows and they're not on the upside," Dineen said before the game. "I think Adam is a really sharp hockey mind and they have some real quality players and we're very respectful of the fact they are a dangerous team." ... The Panthers were without defensemen Ed Jovanovski (knee) and Michael Caruso (wrist) and forwards Sean Bergenheim (undisclosed) and Scottie Upshall (ankle). Washington was without forward Brooks Laich (groin) and defensemen Tom Poti (upper body) and Jack Hillen (shoulder). Defenseman John Erskine returned after a three-game suspension and dropped the gloves against George Parros in the first period.
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