Offense erupts as Caps top Panthers

Thanks in part to a slight lineup tweak by coach Bruce Boudreau, the Washington Capitals exploded for five third-period goals en route to a 7-4 victory against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night at Verizon Center.

Mike Knuble and Tomas Fleischmann both had two goals, and Knuble had a four-point night as the Caps swept a home-and-home with the Panthers and won for the second time in three games without Alex Ovechkin.

Knuble moved to the top line with Fleischmann and Nicklas Backstrom at the start of the final period, helping to spark the outburst.

Offense was clearly not an issue despite the Caps being without Ovechkin, the two-time MVP, and Mike Green, last season’s runner-up in the Norris trophy voting and leading scorer among all NHL defensemen.

A wild final period began with Mathieu Perreault’s first NHL goal at 2:21 to make it 3-3. Perreault stole the puck from rookie defenseman Dmitry Kulikov behind the Florida net and then stuffed it inside the right post to even the score at 3-3.

Quintin Laing briefly gave Washington the lead 40 seconds later. Matt Bradley threw a centering pass in front from the right corner, and Laing poked the puck past Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen for his second of the season.

Florida’s Cory Stillman made it 4-4 at 5:09 when he redirected a Kulikov slap shot from the right point, but Tomas Fleischmann put home the rebound of a Nicklas Backstrom wraparound try at 7:22 to put the Caps back in front.

Knuble gave Washington the first two-goal advantage of the night when he deflected a Shaone Morrisonn shot from the left point past Clemmensen for his second marker of the evening at 11:06.

Fleischmann added his second of the night at 13:38 on a pass from Knuble to make it 7-4. Fleischmann has five goals in six games since missing the start of the season with a blood clot in his leg.

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