The back-and-forth series between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers continued to yo-yo on Monday night.
Two days after the Capitals took a 2-1 series lead, the top-seeded Panthers bounced back with a 3-2 overtime victory to even up the first-round matchup.
Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead midway through the third period, but Sam Reinhart tied the game for the Panthers with 2:04 remaining. Florida winger Carter Verhaeghe then scored the game-winner nearly five minutes into overtime — his second goal of the contest — with a slapshot past Washington goaltender Ilya Samsonov.
The series now returns to Sunrise, Florida, for Game 5 on Wednesday night, as the Capitals look to continue the seesaw series with a win before returning to Capital One Arena for Game 6.
Much like Saturday’s tilt, Game 4 at Capital One Arena began as a physical contest. Garnet Hathaway set the tone early with a big hit less than 30 seconds into the game. Then, two minutes later, Alex Ovechkin got into the action with a smash of his own.
After two slick saves by Samsonov, who started Game 4 after 80 minutes of impressive play in replace of Vitek Vanecek, Washington looked sloppy on its first power-play opportunity. But the Capitals received another chance with the man advantage, and they didn’t squander it.
John Carlson’s point shot redirected off T.J. Oshie’s leg and into the cage past Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Verhaeghe then tied the game with 5:52 left in the first, finding the back of the cage on an odd-man rush during a 4-on-4. Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen committed to Aaron Ekblad, but the Panthers blueliner found an unmanned Verhaeghe, who slipped the puck past Samsonov.
Neither team scored in the second period, but Florida had its chances to take the lead with three power-play opportunities in an eight-minute span. But the Capitals remained stout on the penalty kill, shutting the Panthers each time. Florida ranked fifth in the NHL during the regular season by scoring on 24.4% of their power-play chances. However, the Capitals, who have five power-play goals themselves in the series, have killed all 13 of Florida’s power plays in the last four games.
Kuznetsov’s goal to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead with 10:29 remaining came after a Panthers turnover caused by a punishing hit from Oshie. The 29-year-old Russian had a one-on-one with Bobrovsky, remaining patient by holding onto the puck as long as possible before nestling it into the net.
Samsonov then stopped several shots to stave off the Panthers, who led the NHL in the regular season with 4.11 goals per game and outshot the Capitals 32-16, but Florida finally broke through with Reinhart’s goal. The score, which was the first playoff tally of Reinhart’s career, took some of the air out of Capital One Arena, and the frustration was evident as Hathaway immediately slammed his stick on the ice.
The Capitals didn’t have too many scoring chances in overtime, and Verhaeghe’s scorching slapshot sent Washington and its fans home dejected.
Game 5 at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.