WASHINGTON — Lars Eller broke a third-period tie and the Washington Capitals defeated the Florida Panthers 4-3 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game skid despite posting a season-low 20 shots.
Braden Holtby made 37 saves for Washington, including one while he played without a stick just moments before Eller gave the Capitals the lead on the other end.
Alex Ovechkin added his team-leading 16th goal in the first period for the Atlantic Division leaders, who have yet to lose three straight this season.
Richard Panik also scored and Brendan Leipsic added an insurance goal in the third period that proved the game-winner.
Brett Connolly scored his team-leading 12th goal for Florida in his return against his former team, as the Panthers sank to a third consecutive loss.
Vincent Trochek scored and had an assist, and Mike Hoffman added his 10th goal in the Panthers’ second one-goal loss to the Capitals this season.
Keith Yandle picked up two assists while Alexsander Barkov got his team-leading 23rd. Sergei Bobrovsky made 16 stops in defeat.
After Holtby lost his stick in traffic in front of his crease, he used his pad to deny Mike Matheson’s wrister early in the third period, and the Caps turned the rebound into a rush into Florida’s zone.
Bobrovsky stopped Jakub Vrana’s initial shot from the left, but Eller reached the rebound, lifting it above the traffic converging in Bobrovsky’s crease and into the net.
Leipsic made it 4-2 with 8:01 left when he scored between Bobrovsky’s pads again, after Ovechkin did so in the first period.
It proved needed after Trochek answered with 4:29 left. But Yandle’s penalty inside the final minute ended Florida’s comeback hopes.
During the first period, Connolly was honoured with an on-screen tribute and loud ovation for his contributions in Washington during a three-year tenure, which included six playoff goals during the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup run. … Jakub Vrana’s assist on Eller’s goal marked Vrana’s 100th career point. … Florida has held opponents to fewer than 30 shots in consecutive games for the first time since doing so in four straight games from Oct. 19-27. … The Panthers’ fifth-ranked power play went 0 for 3 and has now scored only once in its last 14 opportunities.
Panthers: Open a nine-game homestand Saturday vs. Nashville.
Capitals: Host Tampa Bay on Friday.
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Ian Quillen, The Associated Press
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