The Washington Capitals scored twice on a power play ranked among the bottom third of the NHL during the regular season and that helped fuel a 6-1 win over the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series on Saturday afternoon.
The Capitals took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series with Game 4 on Monday night at Capital One Arena.
Florida took an early 1-0 lead but Washington tied the score at the end of the first period and ended up taking the lead in the second before expanding it and taking it to the Panthers.
The Panthers, whose power play ranked fifth in the NHL during the regular season, is now 0-9 on the power play in this series.
The Capitals are 4-for-12.
“We can say as much as we want in the room, but we get out on the ice and I don’t think we were on it,’’ Brandon Montour said afterward.
“Penalties, we’ve got to clean up. They’ve got one of the best power plays in the league and we’ve got to watch that. All in all, we’ve got to be better.”
The Panthers took the early lead on a terrific series from Jonathan Huberdeau.
After racing down the ice to beat Alex Ovechkin for a loose puck — and taking a big hit along the glass from Ovi — Huberdeau raced back the other way and caught a pass from Anthony Duclair in stride.
Huberdeau zipped one from 30 feet out to beat Ilya Samsonov at 2:45 to make it 1-0.
With Sergei Bobrovsky making some unreal saves, the score remained that way until late in the first.
In the final seconds of a Florida power play, MacKenzie Weegar was called for holding the stick.
Washington won the ensuing faceoff, Ovechkin fired a shot from inside the blueline that was deflected by T.J. Oshie and it was a tie game.
Despite that late goal, the Panthers came out flying in the second period and controlled possession and held a shot advantage in the period — but Washington was able to score and Florida was not.
Florida opened the period with a pair of power play chances but failed to score. On the second trip with the advantage, the Panthers went back to their five-forward look with Aaron Ekblad on the second unit.
Only it was Washington getting its first lead since Game 1 midway through the second when Marcus Johansson slid through and pounced on a loose puck, putting a backhand shot past Bobrovsky.
Anthony Matha’s initial shot had been blocked by Ben Chiarot but the puck rolled to Johansson who roofed it.
Late in the period, Weegar had the puck taken from him by Mantha in the corner, setting up Trevor van Riemsdyk’s first goal of the postseason with 1:11 remaining.
At that point, Florida was outshooting the Caps 13-6 in the period yet gave up two goals.
In the final minute of the second, Sam Bennett got called for a tripping and also got a roughing call after a scrum broke out behind the net. Mantha also went to the box on a roughing penalty.
Florida killed off that penalty but midway through the third, Huberdeau was called for interference.
With 28 seconds left on the power play, Ovechkin got the puck in his favorite spot and hammered a one-timer past Bobrovsky from the left circle.
It was the first goal of this series for Ovechkin, who ended his regular season with yet another 50-goal campaign.
Florida pulled Bobrovsky with 4:50 remaining to try and get something going — and 30 seconds later, John Carlson sent a shot the length of the ice into the empty net.
With 41.7 seconds left, Garnet Hathaway scored on a rebound in front of the net to end the day.
“It’s playoff hockey,’’ Andrew Brunette said. “All these games you watch every night on TV, it’s tight, there is no room. We have to find a way, again, to fight through it.
“So far this series we have proven at different stretches but not enough right now. We are behind 2-1, there is a lot of hockey left. We just have to play a little better.”
GR’S THREE STARS OF GAME 3
1. Ilya Samsonov, Washington
2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington
3. Anthony Mantha, Washington
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS (WSH leads 2-1)
- Game 4: Monday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TBS
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS
- Regular season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4); @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
- Playoff history: First meeting
- First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington 4, @Florida 2; Game 2: @Florida 5, Washington 1; Game 3: @Washington 6, Florida 1; Game 4: Florida at Washington, Monday, 7 (TBS/BSF); Game 5: Washington at Florida, Wednesday, 7:30 (ESPN2/BSF); Game 6*: Florida at Washington, Friday; Game 7: Washington at Florida, May 15. *If necessary