Panthers Outlast Capitals – Hoffman Scores OT Winner

WASHINGTON — Mike Hoffman scored the winning goal on the power play in overtime and Roberto Luongo made 26 saves to help the Florida Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 5-4 Saturday night and remain on the fringe of the playoff race.

With Brett Connolly in the penalty box for slashing late in regulation, Hoffman scored 1:31 into overtime. Florida has the NHL’s top power play since Nov. 1.

Derrick Brassard scored his second goal in four games since Florida acquired him in a deal with Pittsburgh on Feb. 1. Moved up to the top line against the defending Stanley Cup champions, Brassard was one of the better players on the ice as the Panthers bounced back from blowing a two-goal lead to win their second in a row and sixth in their past eight games.

Frank Vatrano, Keith Yandle and Colton Sceviour also scored for Florida, which is back in the race in the Eastern Conference because of its recent run. The Panthers still have three teams between them and a playoff position in the conference and might need 12 out of 14 points on their upcoming homestand to stay in it ahead of the Feb. 25 trade deadline.

Florida Panthers Keith Yandle
Florida Panthers Keith Yandle celebrates (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Luongo picked up his first victory in Washington since 2011 and moved to within one of tying Ed Belfour for third on the NHL’s all-time list. Luongo joined Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy as the only goaltenders with 1,000 career starts and tied Roy for second in all-time games played with 1,029.

Vatrano and Yandle scored two goals in 35 seconds in the first period, and Sceviour scored on a perfect deflection in the second. Moved up to left wing on the top line, Brassard scored on a rebound seven seconds into the third period to show the kind of offensive instincts that made Florida want him and could make him a candidate to bet traded again in the next 15 days.

Connolly scored twice and Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal for Washington, which took a handful of ill-time penalties and had its winning streak snapped at two. Braden Holtby 26 saves and fell victim to some bad bounces, deflections and miscues on the goals he allowed.

Kuznetsov tied the score at 1 with 3:06 left to help the Capitals earn a point.

NOTES: Capitals D Christian Djoos returned after missing 24 games with compartment syndrome in his left leg. … With Djoos back, the Capitals were fully healthy for the first time this season in their 55th game. … RW Devante Smith-Pelly was a healthy scratch for Washington. … Panthers D MacKenzie Weegar missed his second consecutive game with an illness.


Panthers: Open a seven-game homestand Sunday against the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.

Capitals: Wrap up a six-game homestand Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.


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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press