WASHINGTON — The Capitals put together a last-minute comeback effort late in the third period but couldn't complete the comeback as the Florida Panthers pulled away with a pair of empty netters for a 6-3 victory. It marked the third straight regulation loss for the Capitals, who allowed Florida to draw even with them in the Wild Card race.
Playing without captain Alex Ovechkin for the second straight contest, the home team struggled to dictate the pace for the first two periods both in the five-on-five and special teams. The Panthers scored all four of their goals against netminder Darcy Kuemper at even strength, holding on for the victory behind a 36-31 edge in shots on goal and a 19-10 advantage in the turnover margin.
The Capitals had five power-play chances, including two in the first period, but didn't manage a single shot on goal across their first three opportunities. They then used the power play to make things interesting in the third, scoring a pair of goals by centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov — the latter of which was the result of head coach Peter Laviolette pulling Kuemper to make it a six-on-four.
Providing the only other goal of the evening for Washington was center Dylan Strome, who redirected a shot from the point by winger T.J. Oshie for his 12th tally of the season. However, the Capitals' 3-0 and 4-1 deficits ultimately proved insurmountable. Kuznetsov's goal made it 4-3 with 2:32 to go in regulation, but centers Anton Lundell and Sam Reinhart iced the game with ENGs.
Prior to puck drop, the Capitals held a moment of silence for Mikhail Ovechkin, their star forward's father who died Tuesday at 71 years old. Ovechkin took a leave of absence Monday before departing for Moscow to be with his family. The Capitals designated him with a non-roster status and ruled him out from return through the rest of this week.
With the March 3 trade deadline looming, the Capitals have gone 1-3 since the All-Star Break. The Panthers, who beat the Capitals in the first round of the playoff last year, have taken each of the first two games of their season series with Washington. The two teams finished the day tied at 62 points with the tiebreaker going to the Capitals for having one game in hand.
The Capitals’ schedule offers no respite, either. On Friday, they will depart for Raleigh, North Carolina, ahead of Saturday’s Stadium Series game against the first-place Carolina Hurricanes — who beat them 3-2 on Tuesday. They will then return to D.C. to play the surging Detroit Red Wings early next week ahead of games against the Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres.