The Panthers fell short for the 7th time in the last 10 games when they blew a late lead to the Capitals in Washington on Saturday night.
Things started off very well for the Panthers as they just about dominated the 1st period and didn’t allow the Capitals any time or space when they had control of the puck. Jared McCann opened the scoring with his 10th career NHL goal and first as a Panther when Denis Malgin sent a cross-ice feed to Alex Petrovic who’s shot was deflected in the slot past Brayden Holtby.
The defensive errors began on the Capitals first goal as a failed pinch by Jason Demers led to the puck going off the wall, between his legs, and into the hands of Alex Ovechkin who set up T.J. Oshie on a 2-on-1. In the 3rd period, the Panthers got the lead back as Reilly Smith scored his 2nd goal of the season on a wide drive to the net on the power play, but that would be all she wrote for the offense as the Capitals would score 3 straight to earn the victory in regulation.
Poor awareness and puck-watching led to Ovechkin being all alone at the front of the net for a point shot deflection, and T.J. Oshie got his second of the game by beating a flat-footed, puck-watching Mike Matheson and going top shelf on Roberto Luongo. Lars Eller got a late goal when him and another Washington forward were left all alone at the top of the blue paint and a rebound came out in front.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Jared McCann. “We made mistakes that cost us, but we can’t dwell on it, we just gotta focus on the next game.”
“It was a matter of time before [the Capitals] came back the way we were playing,” said Gerard Gallant. “When you’re playing against a great team like Washington, they’ll take advantage of your mistakes and we just made too many.”
The loss put a damper on what was a solid night for Luongo as he was forced to make several huge saves following defensive breakdowns. One was an incredible glove save at the top of the crease following a rebound when Mark Pysyk was unable to clear the zone despite having a wide open lane to do so. He also made a number of pad saves and stopped Ovechkin with the glove on a power play one-timer early in the game. He stopped all 13 shots on the penalty kill and 19 more at even strength for a game total of 32.
“We completely left [Luongo] alone there,” said Jonathan Marchessault. “He made so many big saves to keep us [in the game], and if it wasn’t for him, it would’ve finished 9-2.”
Jaromir Jagr left the game after the 1st period and did not return. Gerard Gallant said he was suffering from a groin cramp and he was a little too sore to come back. Gallant says he’s day-to-day and it’s not expected to be anything serious.
The Panthers will return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday for the second time this season. The two teams last met on October 18th when Steven Stamkos tied the game at 3 with 5 seconds remaining in the 3rd before Brayden Point won it in the shootout. The Lightning are coming off a 4-1 victory over the Devils on Saturday with Brian Boyle, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov all scoring in front of Ben Bishop who made 37 saves on 38 shots.