WASHINGTON (AP) — Evan Rodrigues was all smiles after his goal helped the Florida Panthers force overtime. That happiness continued after another come-from-behind victory.
Rodrigues tied it early in the third period, Sam Reinhart scored 15 seconds into OT and the defending Eastern Conference champions rallied to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Wednesday night for a second consecutive victory. Much of the core group that reached the Stanley Cup Final is back, and Rodrigues is a newcomer enjoying jumping along for this ride.
“There’s definitely no quit in this team, and no matter what the score is we’re not going to roll over,” Rodrigues said. “When we’re down in games, the room doesn’t get quiet. It’s uplifting, it’s motivating and I think that’s why you see late in games so many comebacks.”
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and captain Aleksander Barkov also scored for the Panthers. Two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves and was hardly to blame for the three goals he allowed.
“They got a bunch of shots and then not so many for a while,” coach Paul Maurice said. “I think that was a veteran goalie’s game. That was a mentally difficult game.”
Florida, despite being without top defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour for the entire season so far as they recover from shoulder surgery, and more recently injured center Sam Bennett, has been among the better defending teams in the NHL.
“The identity we’re wanting to play, the game plan we’re trying to execute on a nightly basis, it’s to be successful when you’re not 100%,” Reinhart said.
The Panthers got some more goals, most notably Reinhart’s goal on the first shift of 3-on-3 OT, to win for a third time in four games. The past two have been comeback wins in OT, including Monday against Columbus.
“They’re two games that haven’t been pretty from start to finish,” Reinhart said. “We had our moments in them, but we were able to stick with it.”
The Capitals ended their five-game homestand on a losing note despite two goals from Anthony Mantha, one short-handed score from Connor McMichael and two assists from Aliaksei Protas. Mantha left in distress in the third period after taking a puck to the left side of his face and did not return.
Coach Spencer Carbery had no update on Mantha afterward.
Darcy Kuemper allowed four goals on 25 shots, including one after a turnover by young defenseman Alexander Alexeyev, who had a rough night in under 10 minutes of ice time.
“We made some egregious mistakes with the puck that, against a team like them, you just can’t make, especially against their best people, who are all feeling it tonight and buzzing around,” Carbery said. “We just made some really, really mind-boggling plays with the puck, decisions with the puck, positional stuff, in the second and third period.”
Alex Ovechkin remains stuck on two goals this season, matching his lowest total through 11 games (2008-09) and slowing down his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s career record.
Panthers: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday in a rematch of last season’s East final.
Capitals: Visit the New Jersey Devils on Friday in the first half of New York-area back to back.
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