Wilson’s two late goals lift Caps to win
Winger ties game in third, scores game-winner in OT
SUNRISE, Fla. — The Washington Capitals have been preaching all season about the tools they have to win. Veteran leadership, experienced goaltending, an infusion of youth, a strong coaching staff — they have many ways to beat you, and they also have many ways to come back when they get down. It’s a mind-set that has come over the team since its Stanley Cup run in 2018, and the Capitals continued to show Thursday night that it travels.
After digging a two-goal deficit in the second period, Alex Ovechkin scored twice in about a six-minute span to tie. Then they entered the third period down a goal before Tom Wilson scored twice, the second strike in overtime to lift the Capitals to a 5-4 win that improved them to 8-1-1 on the road and 12-2-3 overall.
Evgenii Dadonov’s power-play goal late in the second gave the Panthers a 4-3 lead. It would be the last time the hosts lit the goal lamp.
Wilson’s redirect just 44 seconds into the third period knotted the game at 4. His game-winner capped a stunning sequence started with a great save by Braden Holtby, who found Evgeny Kuznetsov on a break. The puck eventually landed on the stick of Wilson, who slid it past Sergei Bobrovsky.
Wilson’s goal extended the Capitals’ winning streak to five and gave them an NHL-best 27 points.
The game started fast and barely slowed. John Carlson’s hot start continued just moments after the puck dropped with a goal 25 seconds in, his eighth. The score also gave Carlson 427 career points, passing Kevin Hatcher for third place on the team’s all-time list.
Florida’s Frank Vatrano answered Carlson’s score 90 seconds later on a breakaway before former Capital Brett Connolly scored his sixth with 5:34 remaining in the period to put the Panthers up, 2-1.
The margin was 3-1 before Ovechkin inserted himself into the scoring, striking from his spot at the faceoff circle on the power play. About six minutes later, at the 12:14 mark of the second, he scored on a feed from Dmitry Orlov to tie it, his 13th goal of the season and 671st of his career.
The Capitals’ penalty killing unit, which was a major area of concern last season but has blossomed this year behind a tweaked system and new personnel, held strong. The unit only allowed one goal, despite having to kill off back-to-back penalties twice in the second period. The one tally was Dadonov’s, which came on the fourth kill of the night.
Washington was able to kill another crucial penalty with just under nine minutes to play in the third.
Thursday’s game was the first time Connolly clashed with his former teammates after signing with the Panthers during free agency this summer. The 27-year-old forward said before the game he thought it was “going to be weird” during warm-ups and the first period, going against so many familiar faces. It didn’t stop him from scoring, however.
The Panthers doubled their margin early in the second period on a goal from Sasha Barkov just 27 seconds into the frame. That’s when Washington turned to a pair of savvy veterans in Ovechkin and Wilson with a knack for finding the net.
Capitals right wing Tom Wilson, left, celebrates with defenseman John Carlson, center, and center Evgeny Kuznetsov after scoring a goal during overtime Thursday.