MIAMI -- The Washington Capitals showed their resilience in the third period last night, when they turned what appeared to be a sure defeat into a surprising victory over the first-place Florida Panthers.
With Florida leading by two goals with less than 8:30 to play, the Capitals scored three consecutive goals by Ken Klee, Sergei Gonchar and Pat Peake to take a 5-4 victory.
Peake's game-winner with 3:34 to play was his eighth goal of the season, but his first at even strength.
It gave a big win to Washington, which beat the Panthers for the first time in three tries this season. And it gives the Caps back-to-back wins against two of the hottest teams in the NHL, coming as it does on the heels of a 4-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens.
Washington goalie Jim Carey made 23 saves in preserving the victory.
Washington's rally began minutes after Kevin Kaminski and Paul Laus got involved in a fight.
"You don't know. It's an intangible," Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld said. "But we got two goals while they were serving that five-minute penalty. It was a tremendous fight, if you're a fight fan. That was a real good scrap. It amazed me that either of them could get up, let alone skate to the penalty box.
"But just maybe it was a guy putting it on the line again, showing his heart."
L Schoenfeld called the victory the biggest win of the season.
"Florida is obviously the hardest team in the league to come back on. It took the maximum effort from everyone. To be able to come from behind halfway through the third against them and win, it has to be our biggest win of the season."
With Kaminski in the penalty box, Ken Klee started the rally.
"We got a lot of guys scoring now," Klee said. "We tried to sit back and ride [Peter Bondra's] shoulders and that didn't work. Now we're all working hard, scoring, winning. To beat Florida here like this was sweet revenge."
Klee was referring to the fact that when the Capitals lost to Florida the first time, they had allowed just 11 shots on goal but fell by a 3-1 score.
"Tonight we needed a lift and Kevin Kaminski gave it to us," Klee said. "Give the credit to him. It was a great fight and it lifted us. What were we supposed to do with him not there doing that?"
This was Washington's first come-from-behind victory in the third period this season.
I= "You should never lose when you're up by two goals in the
third," Carey said. "Kenny's third goal shifted the momentum. It was a nice game, wasn't it?"
Plastic wrap was flying onto the ice 4:16 into this game, when former Capital Jason Woolley made his old team momentarily miserable. Woolley lofted the puck high over Carey's right shoulder for his fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
Early this week, the Capitals had held a team meeting to discuss their goals for the coming game. Chief among them was scoring first. Obviously, that didn't happen last night. Woolley's shot was set up by Radek Dvorak, who had swept in for a blast at Carey moments earlier. Carey poked the puck away, but the rebound came to Brian Skrudland, who passed to Woolley for the slap shot.
A little more than eight minutes later, Michal Pivonka tied the zTC game, 1-1, when he put away a pass from linemate Bondra. It was Pivonka's third goal of the season and a timely one. The Panthers, after all, are 15-0-1 when leading after the first period.
The second period started Washington's way. Bondra, who leads the Caps in goals, gave another demonstration of his ability with his 20th goal of the season. The Caps were working their second power play of the night when Bondra carried the puck toward the net, looked to pass to Keith Jones and then surprised the Miami Arena sellout crowd of 14,703 and goalie Mark Fitzpatrick by shooting back across his body for a 2-1 lead with 2:49 gone.
Washington had a bundle of opportunities to stretch the lead by two or three, but Fitzpatrick, who had already beaten the Capitals twice this season, refused to yield.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Carey also was at the top of his game. Coming off his second shutout of the season, he showed just how good he could be here, too. When Dvorak came in by himself at 15:04, Carey made the big pad save and smothered the puck.
But with 5:31 left, Florida left wing Bill Lindsay went nearly the length of the ice to tie the score. As everything seemed to tumble past the net, Lindsay pulled the puck back and shot it over Carey's left shoulder to make the score 2-2.