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Florida Panthers Outlast Washington Capitals, 4-2, Reclaim Division Lead

We're in store for another battle of the backups between Scott Clemmensen and Michal Neuvirth tonight as the Caps and Cats take the ice. Each team is skating shorthanded, as Panthers first line winger Kris Versteeg is out with the flu, and Caps would-be all-star Alex Ovechkin is serving a three game suspension.

After last night's action, the Panthers sit on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, at ninth. With a victory tonight, the Panthers will vault back into third, but a loss will set them even further back.

First Period:

Alexanders Semin would test Clemmensen just a minute and a half into the game with a breakaway on the glove side which he easily kicked aside. The Panthers would answer with two shots on the ensuing trip down the ice.

The teams traded chances through the first half of the period, with the Caps taking nine shots to the Panthers eight in the first 10:22, but neither team was having any success against the opposing netminders.

The Panther's drew the first power play of the night with five minutes remaining when Jason Chimera was called for high sticking John Madden. The Caps cleared the puck out a total of three times and the Panthers put the puck on goal four times, including two one-timers by Jason Garrison. The Capitals managed to kill it off without further incident.

Jeff Halpern nearly scored as he beat Clemmensen but lost to the goal post with about 20 seconds left in the period, the teams took the dressing room in a scoreless tie.

Second Period:

Mikael Samuelsson put a shot on the net from the center line less than a minute into the period, dinking off the post and into the net. The Panthers are 15-1-6 when scoring first. It was Samuelsson's fourth goal of the season. Tyson Strachan and sean Bergenheim each scored their first assist of the season on the play.

The Panthers went on their second power play of the night when Dennis Wideman was called for delay of game at the five minute mark. The Capitals cleared the puck three times and even managed a shorthanded shot, only allowing the Panthers one shot over the two minute duration.

The Capitals drew a penalty when Keaton Ellerby held Brooks Laich for their first power play of the night. As the power play started, Sean Bergenheim broke out of the zone for a shorthanded rush but got high sticked in the face by John Carlson, putting the action at four-on-four. Laich evened the score with his 10th goal of the season at the 11 minute mark with assists from Karl Alzner and Jason Chimera.

Third Period:

The Panthers controlled play for the first few minutes of the period, as the Capitals were showing signs of wear and tear after losing an overtime matchup to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night.

At the four minute mark Matt Hendricks accidentally kicked Scott Clemmensen in the head and was called for goalie interference putting the Panthers on their third power play of the night. After the Capitals twice cleared the puck out of the zone, Mikael Samuelsson scored his seasons fifth goal (and second of the night) to put the Panthers on tip, 2-1 with a slapshot from the blue line. Brian Campbell and Tomas Fleischmann earned assists on the play.

At the six minute mark the Panthers were penalized when Krys Barch interfered with Michal Neuvirth. The Panthers cleared the puck out four times and garnered two shorthanded chances, keeping the Capitals shotless on the power play.

Stephen Weiss scored an apparent goal with his shoulder as he fell into the net, but it was immediately waved off by the on ice official. Play stopped as the possible goal was given a long look by the war room in Toronto. Eventually, the goal was awarded to Weiss for his 13th of the season. Campbell and Fleischmann earned their second assists of the period on the play.

After the goal, the Capitals came out throwing everything at Clemmensen, keeping the Panthers trapped in their own zone for almost two minutes.

John Carlson halved the lead with two minutes remaining in regulation when he intercepted an ill-advised pass from Tomas Kopecky, putting a slapshot past Clemmensen for his 6th goal of the season, unassisted.

A minute later, the Capitals pulled Michal Neuvirth for the extra skater. It didn't take Shawn Matthias long to cap the win with an empty netter for his ninth goal of the season.

Hits: Capitals, 38-23 (Matt Hendricks collected eight for the Capitals, while Jason Garrison led the Panthers with four).

Blocked Shots: Capitals, 16-11 (Roman Hamrlik blocked four shots to lead all skaters, while Erik Gudbranson blocked three for the Panthers).

Faceoffs: Panthers, 29-19 (Stephen Weiss won 10 of his 15 chances, with Marcel Goc winning 10 and losing eight. Brooks Laich won seven of his 21 chances for the Caps).

Shots on Goal: Panthers, 37-28 (Troy Brouwer led all skaters with five for Washington, while the Panthers were paced by four shots each from Mikael Samuelsson and Jason Garrison).

Final Score: Panthers 4, Capitals 2

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.