Quick Recap: Capitals Stifle The Panthers

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The Panthers lost, but don't blame this man. AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The Panthers had a tough time getting anything going Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals, losing an anticlimactic 3-0 shutout.  Tomas Vokoun of the Caps was good, but not overly tested as the Panthers struggled to maintain puck possession and put together scoring chances.  The Capitals defense was suffocating, and backup goalie Jacob Markstrom had no offensive support in a losing effort.

However, despite it being a “losing effort”, Markstrom played well to great in goal.  He spent a ton of time in his own zone against a high-powered Capitals team, but logged a very respectable 29 saves in 31 shots.  His performance should get great marks from the hockey community, and his potential was clear to see.  Unfortunately, this was the Caps’ night.

The first period heavily favored the Capitals.  They took advantage of their one power play opportunity and controlled the puck for the majority of the time.  They also stymied the Panthers’ first power play chance, which came into the game ridiculously hot.  Even though Washington was in control of almost every facet of the game in the first period, the score going into the locker room was only 1-0.  Aside from a fluky Marcus Johansson goal on the man advantage, the Caps didn’t execute any of their scoring chances.  A shot from Brooks Laich went wide of an open net, and Johansson missed another chance off the end of his stick on a one-on-one versus Markstrom.

The second was more of the same, but this period had more to do with Markstrom’s goalie performance.  For the first time in the NHL, Markstrom looked like a serious goalie.  He made big stops often to keep the game at 1-0 going into the second intermission.  David Booth had a great chance to tie the game on one series of events: Markstrom stopped Jason Chimera cold on a breakaway, Tomas Kopecky picked up the loose puck and passed all the way to the other end of the ice to Booth, and his one-on-one slap shot against Vokoun was knocked aside.  It would have been a sweet way to tie the game, but the Panthers would have to go back into the dressing room to try and figure out how to maintain some puck possession and score that elusive goal.

Whatever plans they had were severely complicated by an Alexander Semin goal early in the third.  He made a good defensive play on Ed Jovanovski on one end of the ice, then took a pass and skated all the way down to the other end to wrist one past Markstrom.  It looked like Markstrom got off his angle, but Jovo didn’t make a heck of a play on Semin to prevent a shot.  The rest of the period resulted in more difficulty for the Panthers generating any puck possession.  Jason Chimera would get the empty-netter with 43 seconds remaining, and that was all she wrote.  A 3-0 victory for the Caps.

Based on the circumstances going into the game, there wasn’t a real sense of optimism for the Panthers.  The Caps were red-hot, the Panthers were coming off a physical game the night before, and they also played their first back-to-back set of games all year.  Markstrom couldn’t be blamed for this performance: he stood on his head for most of the night keeping the game close.  In the end, it was a matter of puck possession and energy, and the Capitals had the advantage in both categories Tuesday night.  However, I wouldn’t expect the Panthers to invade the Verizon Center at this point of the year.  Let’s just label this game a throwaway and regroup for Buffalo on Thursday Night.

So what do you think, Panther fans?  Comment on the bottom if you’ve got something to get off your chest!

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