Before the first period came to a close, Quinton Howden was whistled for holding Marcus Johansson and the nearly full power play to start the second paid dividends.
A point shot by Mike Green ricocheted off the post but then lay unprotected in the blue paint behind Markstrom where Ribeiro swatted the loose puck into the open net for a 2-0 lead just 43 seconds into the middle stanza.
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“We had a lot of opportunities tonight and it definitely felt like we exposed their [penalty killing] unit,” Green said. “We tried to make sure that we were moving pucks well, Nick and Ribs made great passes and of course Ovi just needs to bury it.”
With 2:24 gone in the second, Ovechkin recorded his second goal. He carried the puck into the Florida zone and was met by veteran defenseman Filip Kuba, who poke checked the puck away in an attempt to neutralize the threat. Ovechkin managed to gain control of the puck again in the right circle and fired a bad-angle shot that made it 3-0.
Ovechkin’s third tally came on the power play with 5:38 remaining in the second period. This time it was Nicklas Backstrom working along the goal line near the right post and sent a smooth pass across the crease, past two Florida penalty killers and over to a waiting Ovechkin who snapped the puck easily into the net before Markstrom could react. Although the Caps were the visitors, several hats still rained down on the ice in homage to Ovechkin.
In the third, the Capitals acknowledged that they let up a little with a four-goal lead and allowed Florida back into the contest.
Tomas Kopecky ended Braden Holtby’s shutout bid with 6:45 gone in the final frame — Holtby finished with 27 saves in his 11th consecutive start — and Peter Mueller cut the Capitals’ lead to 4-2 with a power play goal less than two minutes later. With the goaltender pulled, Kopecky scored with 32. 7 seconds remaining in regulation to make it 4-3 but the Panthers couldn’t finish the comeback.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we did in the first 45 [minutes]. Get the puck deep, no chance plays, make sure you take care of that puck,” Backstrom said. “The first two periods was easier than we thought and we played good and then maybe we relax a little bit. It can’t happen in the future. The points is too important.”