Wil­son’s two late goals lift Caps to win

Winger ties game in third, scores game-win­ner in OT

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Sa­man­tha Pell

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.

LYNNE SLADKY/AP

Cap­i­tals right wing Tom Wil­son, left, cel­e­brates with de­fense­man John Carl­son, cen­ter, and cen­ter Evgeny Kuznetsov af­ter scor­ing a goal dur­ing over­time Thurs­day.

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