Caps unravel in Game 5 with blown three-goal lead in 5-3 loss


SUNRISE, Fla. — Twenty-three minutes into Wednesday's Game 5 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Florida Panthers, the Capitals appeared so close to a series lead they could feel it. 

When they skated off the ice, all they could hear was Florida's goal horn and all they could see were flying toy rats, scattering onto the ice around them. 

The Capitals blew a three-goal lead and lost 5-3 at FLA Live Arena and, for the second-straight game, fell in agonizing fashion. They've now been pushed to the brink of elimination in this best-of-seven series with Game 6 set for Friday night at Capital One Arena.  

Florida scored three goals in the second period and took the lead early in the third period with a Carter Verhaeghe tally to cap an epic comeback at home. 

The Panthers lead the series 3-2 with a chance to close it out on Friday. Here are a few takeaways from Game 5:

Panthers complete three-goal comeback

The Panthers led the NHL in comeback wins for a reason, and the Capitals have learned that the hard way in the last two games. 

Florida scored four unanswered goals to take the lead as Washington was held off the board for the final 37-plus minutes in its second-straight defeat. 

The Capitals, in back-to-back games, have blown leads in painful fashion — first in Game 4 with a late goal allowed in the final minutes with the goalie pulled for an extra skater, then in Game 5 with the three-goal lead blown.


Power play, and Oshie, stay hot

The Capitals' power play stayed blistering hot and scored its sixth goal with the man-advantage of the series with a T.J. Oshie deflection. 

The goal moved the power play to 6-of-18 in the series, and their penalty kill was once again good as it held the Panthers off the board for the fifth-straight game. Florida is now 0-for-15 while a man-up this series. 

The Capitals' special teams has continued to reign supreme this series. 

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Samsonov starts three straight

Ilya Samsonov earned his third straight start in goal Wednesday night as the Capitals turned to him once again after two strong games in Washington in Games 3 and 4.

He had another game where he kept the Panthers off the board at timely moments, but even he couldn't withstand the Panthers' offensive firepower for the entire night. Samsonov stopped 33 of 38 shots.  

Hanging on in the first leads to a wild second

The Capitals hung on for dear life at the end of the first period, and it paid off — for a little while.

Washington withstood an unrelenting Florida attack in the final eight or so minutes of the first period and escaped into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead. In the second period, the Capitals saw the reward. First, Justin Schultz put the Capitals up 2-0 with a rebound goal in front of the net. Then just 86 seconds later, T.J. Oshie scored on a two-on-one to make the Capitals’ lead three. 

As it turned out, the Capitals would need that cushion.

The Panthers scored three unanswered goals to tie the game in the second period in an onslaught that brought the game even just when it appeared Washington was in control. 

Laviolette juggles the lines

The Capitals, despite showing the no changes to the forward lines at their morning skate, juggled things a bit in Game 5. 

Washington coach Peter Laviolette moved Alex Ovechkin down to the third line for portions of the night to skate with Lars Eller and Conor Sheary. In the first period, Connor McMichael took a shift with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Oshie. 

It was the first major (non-injury related) line juggling move by the Capitals this series, as they looked to give a different look to the Panthers.

All first-round games of Capitals vs. Panthers will be available regionally on NBC Sports Washington and streamed live on the MyTeams app.