Special teams carry Capitals in Game 3 win over Panthers

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Special teams carry Capitals in Game 3 win over Panthers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

With the Capitals down a goal late in the first period of Saturday's Stanley Cup playoff games against the Florida Panthers, it took going down a goal to give them the momentum they needed.

After killing off 1:58 of an Anthony Mantha cross-checking penalty, Washington drew a penalty and scored seven seconds later to tie the game.

Then in the second period, it killed off two penalties (one just 19 seconds after the first had expired) to keep the game tied. Marcus Johansson gave the Capitals a lead they never gave up just two minutes later.

Now through three games of the series, the Capitals' special teams are making a huge difference with a perfect penalty kill and stellar power play.

“I think guys are just stepping up, making plays,” T.J. Oshie said. “(Assistant coach Blaine Forsythe) is doing a great job for us on the power play side of things making adjustments. We are making plays, guys are working to get second opportunities second pucks. In the same token, (assistant coach Scott Arniel) is doing a great job with the penalty kill. We are limiting their shots, limiting their chances.”

With a 2-for-6 performance on the power play in Game 3, the Capitals are now 4-of-12 in the series with the man-advantage.

Their power play goals Saturday first tied the game (Oshie) and then put the game out of reach at 10:25 of the third period after Alex Ovechkin marker.

“Special teams are really important in the postseason,” Oshie said. “You want to get that edge and tonight we did that, and both units (are) going really good.”

The work that the power play has done in the series thus far has been impressive, but it still comes in second place compared to the Capitals’ penalty kill. Washington is 9-for-9 when down a man this series, even without Tom Wilson (lower-body injury), one of their best penalty killers, in the lineup.

Saturday, goaltender Ilya Samsonov stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, including a handful of threatening shots with the Capitals on the penalty kill, to keep the Panthers at 0% on the man-advantage this series.

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Florida boasted the fifth-best power play (24.4%) during the NHL's regular season as the league’s best offense was almost as deadly on the power play as it was at even strength. Saturday, the Panthers came up dry once again.

"I think we're doing a good job of being prepared, being on the same page and when it calls for it sacrificing, blocking shots,” Capitals defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “We've had some huge saves when things do break down, and that's always crucial on the PK. They're obviously an unbelievable group, and to be top five in the league over a course of 82 games mean they do a lot right.”

The penalty kill Saturday was sparkling not just in statistics, as they kept the Panthers at-bay for large portions of the two-minute penalties with a mix of speed and energy from, notably, forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Conor Sheary.

That, paired with the Capitals' power play, was enough to beat Florida and regain the series lead.

“You can feed off of that,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “The penalty kill, it can throw energy into the game with big blocks and big kills and big saves by your goaltender. And you can come back out after that and get back going 5-on-5. You can definitely feed off of that.”

All first-round games of Capitals vs. Panthers will be available regionally on NBC Sports Washington and streamed live on the MyTeams app.