Notes from the Caps 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday:
How it happened: For the first time in the regular season, the Caps went to overtime and the new 3-on-3 format. Rather than trading quick odd-man rushes with the Panthers, the Caps played a very deliberate, possession-heavy style in the Panther's zone. As they cycled, Evgeny Kuznetsov faked a drop pass to Alex Ovechkin. Defenseman Brian Campbell took the bait only for a moment, but that was all Kuznetsov needed. Before the defense could blink, Kuznetsov was behind them and beat Montoya underneath the right blocker for the game-winner.
What it means: The Caps won their second game in as many nights to improve their record to 8-2-0 on the season. That matches the 1991-92 and 2011-12 seasons for the best start in franchise history. The Caps now sit tied for the Metropolitan Division lead with their next opponent, the New York Rangers.
A 'challenge'-ing goal: Midway through the third period, Jay Beagle tied the game at 1 when he knocked a deflected shot from Ovechkin past the sprawling Al Montoya. Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant challenged the goal for goalie interference, cue Caps fans everywhere thinking, "here we go again."
"The way the goaltender was, there's no way he could have covered," Barry Trotz said. "There was a third of the net open no matter what. I was pretty confident once I saw it up on the big screen, but I won't take anything for granted because I've been wrong a few times this year."
Replay showed contact between Montoya and Justin Williams, but it appeared to be instigated by Montoya who reached out with his glove hand at Williams. After a lengthy review, the goal was upheld.
Shuffling: The Caps have been pretty consistent with their lines this season, but that changed on Saturday as Trotz changed things up early and often as the team did not look sharp to start the game. Tom Wilson appeared to take shifts will all four lines while Beagle and Williams took shifts with different players on the left.
"We sort of put a worker on each line and said hey we can skill around all we want until we start getting into the interior and putting pucks there we're not going to score," Trotz said. "So we switched up every line and away we went. We tried to catch everybody's attention."
The shuffling appeared to spark the Caps as it was the Ovechkin-Beagle-Williams line that tied the game in the third period.
"Just wanted to get some people to go to the net and see if we could drum up some business there," Trotz said.
Feeling Gruby: Backup goalie Philipp Grubauer made his second start of the season and looked phenomenal in net, turning aside 26 of the 27 shots he faced including all 10 of the Panthers' shots in third period. He looked very comfortable and made key saves throughout the night. He is now 2-0 on the season and is showing why he deserved to make the full-time jump to the NHL this season.
"Gruby stood on his head and kept us in it and we were able to get the win," Beagle said.
What's next: The Caps head to the place where it all ended last season, Madison Square Garden, for a tilt with the New York Rangers on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.
MORE CAPITALS: D Matt Niskanen joins STL after the Caps' win over Columbus