Washington Capitals face 5-4 loss to Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers — Courtesy: Sam Navarro – USA TODAY Sports

SUNRISE, Fla. — Sam Reinhart scored the winning power-play goal with 14.4 seconds left, securing a furious comeback for the Florida Panthers to beat the Washington Capitals 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Trailing 4-1, the Panthers scored four goals on a season-high 27 shots in the third period to snap a two-game trip.

“It was pretty quiet in between periods,” Reinhart said. “We kind of knew what needed to be done and it was great to be able to turn that game around. The depth showed. We’re happy with the effort.”

Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette was nothing short of blunt while trying to make sense of his team’s stunning loss: Washington simply stopped playing in the third period. 

The Capitals had a three-goal lead after 40 minutes of a track meet with the Florida Panthers, and their confidence was at an all-time high against an Atlantic Division power. Then the Capitals had their worst period of the season, allowing four unanswered goals—with the last one coming in the final— for just their fourth regulation loss of the season. 

“We stopped playing,” Laviolette said. “That is two games in a row that we’ve stopped playing in the third period. If you don’t punch back, the only thing you are going to do is get punched, and we got punched for 20 minutes. It’s on us.”

Florida’s rally was extremely unlikely. NHL teams had lost 303 games in a row when trailing by three or more goals entering the third. The last team to pull off such an incredible comeback was, ironically, the Capitals. On Jan. 18, 2020, Washington trailed the New York Islanders 4-1 entering the third and went on to secure a 6-4 victory.

The Capitals lost for the first time in four games.

Lomberg’s goal at 3:23 of the third brought the score 4-2. Luostarinen scored a shorthanded goal with only six minutes left in the third period to close the Panthers to 4-3. Bennett then tipped in a shot from Aaron Ekblad that tied the score at 4 with 7:59 left before Reinhart capped the scoring.

“There’s always a belief in that room that we’re never out of it,” Lomberg said. “As soon as the first domino fell, we just kept our foot on the gas.”

The Capitals took a 2-0 lead when they scored two goals by Malenstyn and McMichael 11 seconds apart in the first. But Thornton’s goal, an easy tap-in of a rebound, closed the score to 2-1 at 6:55 of the first. Thornton now has 1,533 career points which tied Mark Recchi for the 12th most in NHL history.

“I think we let our guard down a little bit and we kind of thought that game was already over,” McMichael said. “It is just unacceptable and we have to be a lot better than that.”

Eller’s backhander that got past Bobrovsky stretched the Capitals’ lead to 3-1 at 6:40 of the second period, and Jensen made the score 4-1 on his shot from the high slot with only 7:20 left.

Tuesday was the third and final meeting between the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals this season—a very early end to the series. Florida has yet to start its season series with 17 other teams, and Washington has yet to play 12 clubs.

Are you interested in Florida sports? For stories like this and much more: Florida Insider is dedicated to educating, entertaining and informing its readers about everything Florida. Easy to read content at the palm of your hands and covering the stories that matter.