T.J. Oshie scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and the Washington Capitals rallied for a 4-2 victory against the Florida Panthers in the opener of their Eastern Conference playoff series Tuesday night in Sunrise, Fla.
Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller also scored for the Capitals — the latter an empty-netter with 49 seconds remaining. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek made 30 saves.
Sam Bennett and Claude Giroux scored for Florida, which blew a 2-1 lead entering the third period. The Presidents’ Trophy winners had been 39-0-1 in the regular season when leading after two periods. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 34 of 37 shots.
Trailing 2-1, the Capitals tied it thanks to the defensive effort of Alex Ovechkin, the third-leading goal scorer in league history. Ovechkin knocked the puck away from Florida defenseman Mackenzie Weegar as he tried to skate the puck out of his own defensive zone, sending Kuznetsov in on a breakaway. Kuznetsov’s shot went off the knob of Bobrovsky’s stick and just under the crossbar to make it 2-2 at 8:14 of the third.
Oshie scored the go-ahead goal after Florida attempted to dump the puck into its offensive zone. Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov corraled the puck and made a quick outlet pass to Nicklas Backstrom on the left wing. Backstrom reached the top of the left faceoff circle before finding Oshie skating toward the net, and he tipped Backstrom’s pass between Bobrovsky’s glove and body.
The Capitals opened the scoring at 3:47 of the first period, just before a power play was about to expire, as Wilson knocked home a rebound of Anthony Mantha’s slap shot from just above the right faceoff circle.
The Panthers tied the score on a three-on-two rush at 17:55 of the period. Bennett carried the puck over the blue line and beat Vanecek with a wrist shot from between the top of the faceoff circles.
Florida took the lead 43 seconds into the second as Giroux won a faceoff, then charged to the net and scored on a rebound of Brandon Montour’s slap shot from the top of the right circle.
Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday night in Florida.
–Field Level Media