Capitals offense clicks in 7-4 win over Panthers

Trailing at the beginning of the third period, the short-handed Caps get a lift from some unlikely sources in a 7-4 win over the Florida Panthers.
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 8, 2009

With Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green wearing suits instead of skates, it figured the Washington Capitals might struggle offensively.

Nothing could have been further from reality Saturday night at Verizon Center.

Sparked by Mathieu Perreault's first career NHL tally and a pair of late strikes from Tomas Fleischmann, the Capitals erupted for five goals in the third period and routed the Florida Panthers, 7-4, before a capacity crowd .

"We can say their goalie struggled and [José Theodore] maybe let in a couple of softer ones than he normally has, but I thought we showed great determination in the third period," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It was really neat to see Mathieu Perreault start it all."

The goal total was Washington's highest since February, and the five third-period goals were the most in a period since March 2008.

And the spark that ignited the Capitals' offensive outburst came from a 21-year-old who was skating in only his third game since being recalled from the minor league Hershey Bears.

Perreault won a puck battle behind the net and stuffed a shot from the doorstep between Scott Clemmensen's pads to tie the game, 3-3, at 2 minutes 21 seconds of the third period to notch his third point since being recalled.

"I had a lot of energy when I stepped on the ice," said Perreault, wearing the red hard hat given out by the Capitals' players after wins and wiping shaving cream from his face. "I felt good in the third period."

So did many of his teammates.

The Capitals scored four of the next five goals to beat the Panthers for the second time in two nights and maintain a seven-point lead in the Southeast Division.

"It says we've got good players on this team," Boudreau said. "And both nights [Alexander] Semin didn't get a point, either. It says that these other players are good. We all know how good Alex and Mike and Semin are. But there's a lot of depth here."

While many of teammates thrived, Semin again struggled. He failed to score a goal for the fifth straight game and was whistled for two minor penalties, including another one in the offensive zone. Semin has been called for four offensive-zone penalties in the past three games.

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