Stephen Weiss, Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Campbell all enjoyed three point nights as the Florida Panthers held off the surging Washington Capitals, 5-4.
The Panthers started off putting every shot directly into Michal Neuvirth's chest pad, not showing a lot of creativity from the drop. Three minutes in, the Capitals went on the first power play of the evening when Stephen Weiss was caught cross-checking John Carlson.
The penalty kill was marked by timely clears and excellent forechecking, mostly on the part of Tomas Kopecky, resident PK beast. The Capitals managed to get three shots on goal, but none required any serious acrobatics on the part of goalie Scott Clemmensen.
Six minutes into the first, the Panthers enjoyed their first power play of the evening, when Mathieu Perrault was called for high sticking Mike Santorelli. Florida was unable to get set up for the first minute on the man advantage, but they finally clicked, as all five skaters touched the puck on Stephen Weiss' 10th goal of the season with assists by Brian Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov.
It only took the Panthers 13 seconds to add to their lead, when Santorelli fired a surprise wrister from the right side, scoring his fourth goal of the season with assists from Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Weaver making the score 2-0, Cats.
Halfway through the first, Bracken Kearns levelled Jeff Halpern and John Erskine retaliated as the two quickly dropped the gloves. The fight was largely a draw, but Erskine was assessed an instigator penalty, putting Florida back on the power play.
At the 15 minute mark, Troy Brouwer was called for interference on Kulikov, who promptly made the Caps pay with his third goal of the season on a slapshot from between the circles, assisted by Weiss and Campbell.
A minute later, Mike Knuble cut the Cats lead to two, beating Clemmensen by putting the puck right between his pads, scoring his third of the season with assists from Marcus Johannson and Dmitry Orlov.
Just before periods end, Karl Alzner was called for boarding Kulikov. The Cats would open the second on their fourth power play of the evening.
Florida showed a lot of good puck movement on the power play to open the second period, but were ultimately shut down. Just as the power play ended, Orlov was called for slashing Tomas Kopecky. The Panthers quickly took advantage, scoring a dirty goal when Sean Bergenheim grabbed the puck behind the Caps net and wrapped it around for his fourth marker of the season. Assists were given to Shawn Matthias and Jason Garrison.
Back on even strength, Marco Sturm set up Jack Skille very nicely but Skille could not seal the deal. The Caps went on the offensive, keeping the puck in Florida's zone for almost two minutes at even strength after Weiss lost his stick. Ultimately, Weiss cleared the puck by dropping to his knees and scooping it out of the zone, ending Washington's threat.
At the 12 minute mark, Tomas Fleischmann made a perfect pass through very dense traffic to Weiss for his second goal of the night and 11th of the season. A secondary assist was given to Campbell. Florida, 5-1.
Kris Versteeg picked up the loose puck on a bad line change by Washington at the 14 minute mark and almost made it 6-1, but fired the puck just over the crossbar.
With 20 seconds remaining in the period, Cody Eakin scored his third goal of the season on a perfect pass from Mathieu Perrault behind the net. John Carlson was also awarded an assist on the play. Florida, 5-2.
Weaver was called for hooking on Jason Chimera, putting the Caps on their second power play of the night. Washington was unable to capitalize on their opportunity, and the man advantage ended uneventfully.
At the 12 minute mark, Brooks Laich scored his sixth goal of the season with assists from Joel Ward and John Carlson, bringing the Caps back within two, 5-3.
Soon after the score, Nicklas Backstrom was called for hooking Weiss, and the Panthers kept pressure on Neuvirth for almost the entire two minutes, including a howitzer shot from Garrison.
With four minutes left, Alex Ovechkin put a move on two Panthers in the offensive zone but was poke checked by Fleischmann before he could get the shot off.
With just under two minutes remaining, Jason Chimera notched his 11th marker of the season with assists from Carlson and Jeff Halpern to cut the Panthers lead in half, to 5-4.
After pulling the goalie to give them a 6-5 skater advantage, the Caps were unable to keep the puck in the offensive zone with any regularity until the last 45 seconds of the game. The Panthers were getting scrambled by the Capitals, but Clemmensen turned everything aside to preserve his third win of the season.
Hits: Florida, 22-20
Faceoffs: Washington, 33-29
Shots on Goal: Washington, 32-30
Final Score: Florida 5, Washington 4
Scott Clemmensen employed excellent rebound control through the first two periods to keep the Panthers out front.
The fourth line provided a bit of a kick, which is what a good fourth line is supposed to do. Evgeny Dadonov, Kearns and Tim Kennedy were a spark plug for the Panthers all night.
The defense was hot tonight, scoring one goal and providing seven assists in the effort.
The Panthers travel to Boston to face the Bruins on Thursday night.