Panthers Pounce to Deny Caps a Road Win

Alex Ovechkin crashes into the net after scoring past Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo in the first period Thursday night. (Luis M. Alvarez - AP)
Alex Ovechkin crashes into the net after scoring past Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo in the first period Thursday night. (Luis M. Alvarez - AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 21, 2005

SUNRISE, Fla., Oct. 20 -- The Washington Capitals' bid to win their first road game was undone by the same problems that have dogged them all season: defensive miscues and penalties.

The injury-depleted Florida Panthers scored twice on the power play, got another shorthanded as a result of a bad pass, and beat the Capitals, 3-2, in front of a sparse announced crowd of 11,716 at BankAtlantic Center on Thursday night.

"We didn't get enough pucks deep and we didn't win many one-on-one battles," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "If you turn the puck over against teams they'll be forever rushing in. And we ended up not being able to get pucks out of zone. We have some young players we are working with. This is just part of our process."

The first of Alex Ovechkin's two goals came early in the first period and put the Capitals ahead 1-0. Goaltender Olie Kolzig, meantime, stopped almost everything thrown his way. But the Capitals were unable to overcome a second period that saw them get outshot 28-6, a statistic that set records for both teams.

It was the most shots for the Panthers in a period, and the most allowed in 30 years by the Capitals, who have been outshot in all eight of games they have played this season -- 49-31 Thursday. Making that figure even more staggering is the fact that Florida played without veteran forwards Gary Roberts (groin) and Joe Nieuwendyk (back spasms).

"We weren't making good decisions at either line," Capitals Captain Jeff Halpern said. "We weren't getting pucks out of own end. And in our end, we were throwing pucks away."

Playing for the first time since Sunday's surprising 3-2 shootout victory over Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, the Capitals came to Florida rested, and a day early. But they were not ready.

Ovechkin's first goal put them ahead two minutes into the game, but the momentum his score generated was short-lived.

Rookie Anthony Stewart responded for the Panthers with a power play goal about four minutes later. After Jozef Stumpel's point shot slipped through Kolzig's pads and came to rest on the goal line, Stewart jammed it into the net to tie the score, 1-1.

Florida's second goal, scored shorthanded by Juraj Kolnik, came just seconds into the Capitals' second power play. It was the direct result of a bad breakout pass by Jamie Heward, who has been one of the Capitals' steadiest defenseman. But his cross ice-pass was picked off by the back-checking Kolnik, who fired low to Kolzig's stick side at 12:07 of the middle frame.

"I just didn't make a good play," Heward said. "I have to get it by. The puck hit him and he ended up scoring. I probably should have taken a penalty on him."

The Panthers' Mike Van Ryn scored on the power play about four minutes later to extend the hosts' lead to 3-1. The defenseman let loose a fully-wound blast from the top of the circle, which beat a screened Kolzig over his glove.

Ovechkin's first-period goal was not of the highlight-reel variety, but it was notable nonetheless because it set the NHL record for consecutive points to start an NHL career by a No. 1 overall pick. It was the Calder Trophy candidate's eighth contest in a row with at least one point, breaking the mark held by Alexandre Daigle, Ottawa's top pick in 1993.

Ovechkin poked the puck past Roberto Luongo after the Florida goaltender had stumped a close-range shot by Brian Willsie. Ovechkin's second goal, his sixth of the season, came with less than three minutes remaining in the third period. He streaked past two Florida defensemen and fired the puck into Luongo, who couldn't keep it out of the net.

Capitals Notes: Left wing Matt Pettinger and defensemen Bryan Muir and Mathieu Biron were scratched. Pettinger has played in three games; Muir has a groin injury and has been out since Oct. 12; Biron was scratched for the second consecutive game after playing in each of the team's first six games.

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