Panthers edge Caps for first time in 22 months

Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- It took a lot for the Florida Panthers to end eight games and 22 months of misery in their rivalry with the Washington Capitals.
It took 10 rounds of a shootout.
It took holding NHL goals leader Alex Ovechkin scoreless -- including a shootout miss.
And it took a 36-year-old career backup goalie who hadn't won a game all season.
The Panthers won their second game in a row -- both in shootouts -- Friday by defeating the Capitals 3-2. It was the Panthers' first win over the Capitals since Feb. 1, 2012, going 0-6-2 during that span.
Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who is now 1-2-1 this season, stopped seven Capitals in the shootout.
"Shootouts are not my forte," he said. "But as it went on, is started to get more fun. It gets easier on goalies as it goes on because teams get on down their (roster of shooters)."
Clemmensen said he was aware of Ovechkin, who has 26 goals this season, every time he was on the ice.
"But it didn't matter even if he had scored their two goals, as long as we won," Clemmensen said. "It's December whatever, and this was my first win, so it's been a long road."
The winning goal in the shootout was scored by right winger Tomas Kopecky, who put a wrist shot just under the crossbar in the 10th round of the shootout.
Center Jonathan Huberdeau, right winger Brad Boyes and center Nick Bjugstad also scored shootout goals for Florida.
Right winger Eric Fehr, center Nicklas Backstrom and center Mikhail Grabovski scored shootout goals for Washington.
Capitals goalie Phillip Grubauer, a 22-year-old rookie from Germany who entered the game with a 1.36 goals-against-average, made 39 saves but took his first career loss and is now 2-1.
Clemmensen got off to a rocky start, giving up an apparent goal by defenseman Mike Green 41 seconds into the game, although it was waved off due to goaltender interference on right winger Martin Erat.
Capitals coach Adam Oates said he argued the interference call at first.
"It was interference -- it was when we watched it on replay," he said. "Out there, I didn't think it was. It was just two inches. That was kind of our game tonight."
With 10:41 left in the first period, Florida got a hard-earned four-minute power play when Capitals defenseman John Carlson high-sticked Kopecky in the face. But the Panthers couldn't convert.
Florida broke through with 2:13 elapsed in the second period as rookie defenseman Dylan Olsen scored from the wing, beating Grubauer with a high wrist shot for his third goal of the season.
"I just picked that one off the wall and started going to the net," Olsen said. "When no one came out to me, I saw a little opening up top and put it on net."
With 3:26 left in the second period, Washington tied the score at 1 when Backstrom beat Clemmensen high to the glove side for his eighth goal of the season.
Center Aleksander Barkov put the Panthers up 2-1 with 2:04 left in the second period. Barkov intercepted a pass by Green, split two defensemen and fired a wrist shot that beat Grubauer stick-side.
The Capitals tied the score at 2 on a power-play goal by right winger Joel Ward, who survived a scramble out in front and barely shoved the puck over the line. It was Ward's 10th goal of the season, and it survived a video review.
Florida, next-to-last in the Atlantic Division with 27 points, is set to begin a four-game road trip in Montreal on Sunday. The Capitals, who are second in the Metropolitan Division with 37 points, return home for a Sunday afternoon game against Philadelphia.
Oates said he was pleased with Grubauer, who gave starter Braden Holtby a rest.
"We just didn't get enough chances," Oates said. "That's the worst we've played in our end in a long time."
NOTES: Capitals G Michal Neuvirth (lower body) was sent to the AHL for the weekend on a conditioning assignment as he prepares to return to the lineup. ... G Tim Thomas, who started 15 of the Panthers' past 16 games, injured his groin in practice Thursday and is out indefinitely. Entering Friday, he had nine of the Panthers' 10 wins. ... With Thomas out, the Panthers called up G Jacob Markstrom from the AHL. ... Capitals LW Brooks Laich (groin), D John Erskine (knee) and D Jack Hillen (leg) are out. ... Erskine is practicing and close to returning, and Laich is working on the ice but not yet practicing. ... Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin entered Friday with 48 goals in his past 50 games. ... Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom leads the NHL with four games with three or more assists this season. ... The Panthers have improved under new coach Peter Horachek. They were 3-9-4 this season under the since-fired Kevin Dineen. In the same amount of games (16) under Horachek, entering Friday, the Panthers were 7-8-1. ... Former Panthers G John Vanbiesbrouck was honored Friday with a bobblehead-doll give-away.

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