The Florida Panthers returned to Sunrise on Thursday night and were stopped by the Washington Capitals 4-2 at BB&T Center. Both clubs had won division titles in the Eastern Conference last season.
Washington(3-0-1) ripped out to a commanding 2-0 lead during the first period. Nate Schmidt centered the puck from the left-wing wall and Justin Williams put in his second attempt of his own rebound past Roberto Luongo at 8:25. It was his 16th goal in 51 career games against the Panthers.
The Capitals extended their margin with a two-goal lead at 10:21. Matt Niskanen was at the top of the zone and snapped a shot which was redirected in by Evgeny Kuznetsov from the low slot.
Florida(2-1-1) climbed back into the contest with 6:13 left in the first as Michael Matheson scored in his second straight game. He got to a loose puck on the left-wing boards and fired a shot by Braden Holtby. Keith Yandle and Aleksander Barkov were credited with assists on the play.
In the second period, the Cats had a power-play goal waived off at 7:47 by the officials. Colton Scevious swiped at the puck while on the ground in the crease just after play was called.
They bounced back from that circumstance later in the frame as Florida converted on their third power-play attempt at 14:10. Jaromir Jagr scored his first goal of the season and the 750th goal of his NHL career which put him 51 goals behind Gordie Howe for third all-time. Jonathan Marchessault placed the puck down into the low right circle to Barkov. He fed Jagr for the one-time shot from the slot area.
The Caps regained the lead 3-2 at 7:33 of the third period. Niskanen put a soft slapshot from the blue line toward the net and Alex Ovechkin deflected it in from the low slot for his second tally of the season and 527th of his career. It was his 34th goal in 55 career games versus Florida.
Washington wrapped it up with 1:20 remaining in the contest. Jason Demers lost the puck while in his own left circle. Marcus Johansson jumped in, took the puck and snapped a close-range shot into the Panthers cage.