- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2018

After falling behind 4-1 in the first period, the Washington Capitals stormed back to grab a standings point Friday night but ultimately lost 6-5 to the Florida Panthers after a shootout.

Coach Todd Reirden benched starting goalie Braden Holtby and shuffled the Capitals’ forward lines after the first 20 minutes, which had an immediate effect for the better.

“We were like two different teams, the first period and then the rest of the game after that,” Lars Eller said. “There was a lot of good stuff and some bad stuff we gotta correct.”

Reirden said the goalie change was more about momentum than Holtby’s performance — most of the Panthers’ goals were either on rebounded saves or in a power-play situation.

“I didn’t think we were emotionally invested in the game in the first period, and that changed to start the second and moving forward,” Reirden said. “So, happy to get a point out of that.”

The Panthers (1-2-2) got their first win after a disappointing start to their season, while the Capitals (3-2-2) kept their heads above the .500 line for now.

Jakub Vrana moved down to the third line, where he had an assist and scored a goal in the first 10 minutes of the second period. Devante Smith-Pelly moved up to the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, and the playoff folk hero tied the game 4-4 13:15 into the second.

The team defense also improved, letting Pheonix Copley get comfortable in Holtby’s place. Copley, who flashed a great stick save in the second frame and showed up big in overtime, made 19 saves in his Capital One Arena debut but allowed one goal on a 5-on-3.

Down 5-4 in the final minutes of regulation, Ovechkin drew an interference penalty on the Panthers’ MacKenzie Weegar, so the Capitals added Eller to the ice and pulled Copley. With the 6-on-4 advantage, Nicklas Backstrom tied the game at five when Eller passed it to him cross-crease.

After overtime proved scoreless, the Capitals moved into their first shootout of the season. T.J. Oshie and Kuznetsov put them ahead 2-1 to start, but Ovechkin’s shot was saved and Nicklas Backstrom missed the net while the Panthers came back to win it, 3-2.

The Panthers have been without regular starting goalie Roberto Luongo. They started James Reiner, but pulled him after Smith-Pelly tied the game at four and subbed in Michael Hutchinson.

The Capitals won’t be back home until Nov. 3. They’ll spend most of the next two weeks in Canada, on a road trip to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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