Washington earned a much-needed win over a Southeast Division foe Saturday night at Verizon Center, defeating the Panthers, 3-2, with clutch third-period goals after weeks of struggling to score at critical junctures of games or with much regularly at all.
In describing his game-winning tally after the contest, Alex Ovechkin replied: "It was just one move and the puck goes in -- finally." This hasn't been the traditional start to a season for Ovechkin, with 15 goals in 42 games, but his shot that beat Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen glove side as Ovechkin fell to the ice on a breakaway chance looked more like the Washington captain's usual flair than any of his goals or chances in recent memory.
"In a long time," Coach Bruce Boudreau said when asked how long it's been since he's seen the style of this particular Ovechkin goal. "Hopefully it's a sign of things to come."
Ovechkin finished with six shots on goal with three blocked and two that missed in 20:33 of ice time and he too hopes this can be something to build on. He has three goals and eight points in the past 13 games.
"I always took it to heart," Ovechkin said of the pressure to score goals. "My numbers are not that good or where they're supposed to be, but it's the middle of the season and there are 40 games left. We'll see what's going to happen at the end of the year."
Prior to Ovechkin's goal, which made it 3-1 in favor of Washington in the third period, Mike Green converted on the power play with a backhander in front of the net that beat Clemmensen blocker side. It was a simple play, started by Eric Fehr, who carried the puck from the boards to the middle of the ice and sent it to the front of the net where Green was skating into open space between Florida penalty killers.
It marked the second time in the game that Fehr and Green combined for a goal as Green recorded the primary assist on the first Capitals' goal of the game by Fehr in the second period.
"I think that's why we've had such close games is our power play's been struggling," Green said. "I think in the past when we get one on the power play, then we'll get one from our third or fourth line and we'll have three or four goals. Without the power play going we're struggling to win games."
Said Boudreau of the seemingly simplistic play to score that important power-play goal, which gave Washington its first lead of the contest: "It's not simple to score but simple plays was one of the big keys in the game....When you're in a slump, as a real ex-hockey player you used to try to be real cute with things, to make the perfect play and in the end what you have to do is just work harder and go to the net more. If you do that then something will bounce off you and that will be the jump start to where you want to be."
Green's goal was the topper on another all-around strong showing by the two-time Norris Trophy finalist. He finished with two points, five shots, three hits and two blocked shots in a team-high 24:10 of ice time that included 2:51 on the penalty kill in what was his first multi-point game since Nov. 14 against Atlanta. Green has six points in the last six games.
"Mike, you can see, is starting to get his confidence and his legs," Boudreau said.
--Number of the night: 96 minutes 27 seconds is how long the Capitals went between goals from Fehr's second tally in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 to his marker in the second period against Florida.
--Boudreau said Alexander Semin took a hip to his thigh when he was hit by Florida's Steve Bernier in the second period. Semin tumbled to the ice after the collision and was slow to get up. He skated one more shift in the game but would not return to the bench for the start of the third period.