NHL playoffs: Capitals stun Panthers; Penguins beat Rangers in 3 OT; Avs, Flames win

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and right wing T.J. Oshie celebrate the go-ahead goal by Oshie.
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) and right wing T.J. Oshie (77) celebrate the go-ahead goal by Oshie during the third period of Game 1 of a Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, in Sunrise, Fla.
(Reinhold Matay / Associated Press)

T.J. Oshie scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, Vitek Vanecek stopped 30 shots and the Washington Capitals rallied past the top-seeded Florida Panthers 4-2 in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series Tuesday night.

Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller also scored for Washington, which trailed 2-1 going into the third period. Teams had been 0-39-1 against Florida in the regular season when trailing after 40 minutes, 0-22-0 when doing so on the Panthers’ home ice.

The Capitals must have ignored those numbers. Kuznetsov tied the game after a Florida turnover with 11:46 left, then Oshie got behind the defense and tapped a pass by Sergei Bobrovsky for what became the winner 2:23 later.


Eller wrapped it up with an empty-netter with 49 seconds left.

Claude Giroux and Sam Bennett scored for Florida, which has not won the opening game of a postseason series since 1997. Bobrovsky stopped 34 shots for the Panthers, the Presidents’ Trophy winners after an NHL-best 122 points in the regular season — and saw the home-ice advantage slip away in their playoff opener.

Game 2 is Thursday, back in Florida.

The Panthers argued for an icing call that didn’t come on the play where the game got tied. MacKenzie Weegar lost the puck after bouncing into Capitals star Alex Ovechkin near center ice, went down, and Kuznetsov skated in alone on Bobrovsky. He beat him to the stick side, tying the game 2-2 with 11:46 left.

Oshie’s go-ahead goal came not long afterward, and Florida never got the equalizer.

The Panthers had 340 goals in the regular season and were the NHL’s highest-scoring team since Pittsburgh in 1995-96 — which, perhaps coincidentally, was the last (and only) season in which Florida has won a playoff series. The Panthers went to the Stanley Cup final that season, haven’t gotten past Round 1 since, and the high-octane offense was largely silenced in Game 1.

The Panthers found themselves on the penalty kill just 49 seconds into the game after Radko Gudas got called for high-sticking, and things worsened when Weegar was hit with a delay of game call to give Washington 1:01 of five-on-three hockey.

The two-man disadvantage was killed off. And Florida was one second away from escaping the whole thing unscathed, before Wilson scored at 3:47 to give Washington a 1-0 lead.

But Wilson left the game not long afterward. He returned to the ice during a stoppage in play in the second period, skated a bit as if to test something, then returned to the locker room. There was no immediate word on the injury or its extent.

Bennett tied the game late in the first, Giroux made it 2-1 in the second, but the Panthers were blanked the rest of the way.

Penguins 4, Rangers 3, 3 OT

NEW YORK — Evgeni Malkin scored on a deflection 5:58 into the third overtime, giving Pittsburgh a win over New York in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Jake Guentzel scored twice and Bryan Rust had a goal and two assists for the Penguins. Sidney Crosby also had two assists. Casey DeSmith had 48 saves before leaving the game midway through the second overtime. Louis Domingue, who appeared in only two games during the regular season, came on and had 17 saves.

On the winning goal, Malkin was positioned in front of the net when he tipped a long shot by John Marino over Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.

Chris Kreider had a goal and an assist, and Adam Fox and Andrew Copp also scored for the Rangers. Mika Zibanejad had two assists. Shesterkin finished with 79 saves, second to the NHL record of 85 saves by Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo in the 2020 playoffs.

Avalanche 7, Predators 2

DENVER — Nathan MacKinnon and Devon Toews scored 22 seconds apart in a five-goal first period, sending Colorado over Nashville in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

The five goals tied the team playoff record for a period and chased Nashville’s backup goaltender David Rittich from the game with 4:56 remaining in the first.

Andrew Cogliano, Cale Makar and Artturi Lehkonen also scored in the first. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog built the lead to 6-0 in the second period. MacKinnon finished with two goals and Darcy Kuemper made 23 saves.

Matt Duchene scored twice for Nashville. Rittich was replaced by Connor Ingram, who finished with 30 saves.

Game 2 is Thursday in Denver.

Flames 1, Stars 0

CALGARY, Canada — Elias Lindholm scored and Jacob Markstrom recorded his second career playoff shutout as Calgary beat Dallas in the opening game of their first-round playoff series.

Lindholm scored a power-play goal early in the first period. Markstrom stopped all 16 shots he faced as Calgary earned just its second playoff win at the Saddledome since 2015.

Dallas goal Jake Oettinger stopped 25 of 26 shots and lost his NHL playoff debut.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Thursday in Calgary. The series shifts to Dallas for Saturday’s Game 3 and Monday’s Game 4.