SUNRISE, Fla. | The Washington Capitals handed the Florida Panthers quite a whooping on Saturday night. Even with a couple of days off before Tuesday’s rematch, the Panthers are still smarting from the 5-0 defeat.
“Having come off a loss to them, a tough loss, where it was a pretty lopsided score, that doesn’t sit well with us,” goaltender Scott Clemmensen said. “We’re looking forward to getting another crack at them.”
That crack comes Tuesday night at BB&T Center, as the Panthers look for what rookie center Jonathan Huberdeau called “redemption.”
“In the fashion that we lost, we believe that we should’ve been better there,” said Clemmensen, who will start Tuesday after getting mop-up duty in relief of Jose Theodore in Washington. “That goes for everyone. Obviously you want to win every game, but just having that fresh in your mind puts, I think, a little something on it.”
Adam Oates said past two days “takes a little bit of the intensity out of” this home-and-home. Don’t tell the Panthers that as they get juiced up for a game against the last-place Caps.
But Washington’s players know exactly what to expect from the Panthers, at least in the first few shifts.
“Hard work. They’re going to finish their checks,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We tried to finish finish our checks on their skill players; I’m assuming that they’re going to try and come out and do the same tonight.”
Manufacturing that kind of intensity isn’t easy, especially in an arena that often isn’t full at puck drop. The atmosphere isn’t electric like it is at home or at the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers.
“We’ll talk about it,” Oates said of expecting the Panthers’ initial push. “We had a good game against them the other night, so obviously they’re going to be more intense tonight and we have to be ready for that and we have to do the right things. Same speeches as always.”
Speeches are all well and good, but right wing Joel Ward said it’s incumbent on the Caps to establish the tone of the game early.
“You’ve just got to get pucks in deep right away and make them force plays,” Ward said. “Hopefully we can kind of capitalize on a few turnovers. But you’ve definitely got to get pucks in deep and just kind of go north-south.”
That kind of game worked well Saturday at Verizon Center, when goaltender Braden Holtby had a 27-save shutout. Holtby wasn’t tested much, partially because of the Caps’ defense.
“To keep chances against [down] is big,” Oates said. “But he had the big save, which was the first two-on-one on [Kris] Versteeg. That’s a whole new ballgame if that goes in, and he made the save that we needed.”
But the Panthers feel that they didn’t do enough to create traffic and make Holtby’s job difficult. They’re determined to do that Tuesday night.
“We’ve got to go to the net, make a good screen on him,” Huberdeau said. “If he sees the puck he’s going to make all the saves so I think that’s what we’ve got to do. I watched him like in the playoffs, he’s a great goalie. Just got to try to beat him and one goal is going to affect his confidence, for sure.”
Holtby not allowing a single goal Saturday paved the way for the Caps’ big victory. But it was just one. A loss to the Panthers on Tuesday night puts the Caps back into the same hole they were in a few days ago.
“We got to continue to play the way we did last game,” Brouwer said. “We can’t be content and think that one game is good enough. We’re going to come out with the same enthusiasm, same intensity and try and play the same type of game that we did last game.”