The Washington Capitals took a 1-0 lead in their 2022 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Florida Panthers after a 4-2 win at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise on Tuesday night. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek made 30 saves in the win.
Capitals’ Round 1, Game 1 Lines
Captain Alex Ovechkin returned to the lineup after missing the final three regular-season games due to an upper-body injury while left-wing Axel Jonsson-Fjallby drew out. Center Connor McMichael came out with Nicklas Backstrom returning from a one-game absence due to maintenance. Left-wing Conor Sheary skated on the top-line while right-wings Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie each bumped down one. Center Johan Larsson returned to his normal spot on the fourth-line.
Scratched: McMichael, Jonsson-Fjallby, LHD Matt Irwin, LHD Michal Kempny
Injured: LW Carl Hagelin (eye, missed 27th straight game, out indefinitely)
As a power play expired, Wilson pounced on a rebound from down low and beat Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to the blocker side to open the scoring in the series 3:48 in after left-wing Anthony Mantha’s wrister from up top was stopped. He left the game with an undisclosed injury after playing just 1:31 and did not return.
Center Sam Bennett ripped a wrister from the slot to the blocker-side through the Capitals’ defensive pairing of Dmitry Orlov and Nick Jensen after flying into the offensive zone to tie it with 2:05 left in the period.
The Capitals led 16-9 in shots, won 61% of the faceoffs, scored once on three power plays, and earned two giveaways while the Panthers tallied four through 20 minutes.
The Panthers led 28-11 in hits and 4-2 in takeaways in the first.
Each team blocked three shots through one.
Right-wing Claude Giroux tapped in a backhander on the rebound in at the doorstep after Vanecek stopped defenseman Brandon Montour’s point shot off of a draw to give the Panthers the lead 43 seconds into the second.
The Capitals led 30-20 in shots (including 14-10 in the second), 56% of the faceoffs, scored once on three man advantage opportunities, and recorded three giveaways while the Panthers had 11 in the first two periods.
The Panthers led 41-23 in hits, 7-6 in blocked shots, 8-5 in takeaways, and did not take advantage of two power plays through two.
After Ovechkin hit Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar at center ice to force a turnover, center Evgeny Kuznetsov pinched at the blueline, streaked all alone to the net, and beat Bobrovsky to the blocker side to tie the game 8:14 into the third.
Oshie slammed in center Nicklas Backstrom’s feed from the half-wall in front of the net after beating Giroux on a foot race to give the Capitals the lead back 2:23 after Kuznetsov’s strike.
With 48.2 seconds left, center Lars Eller whipped a bouncing puck off of the half-wall in the Capitals’ end into an open net to double the Capitals’ lead.
The Capitals led 38-32 in shots, scored once on three man advantage opportunities, and recorded six giveaways while the Panthers had 13.
The Panthers led 12-7 in third-period shots, won 53% of the draws, 56-43 in hits, 12-11 in blocked shots, 14-9 in takeaways, and did not take advantage of two power plays.
Game 2: Thursday at 7:30 PM ET from FLA Live Arena (7:30 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington locally, TBS nationally)
By Harrison Brown