Sunrise, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Alex Ovechkin's goal with 4:17 remaining snapped a tie game and lifted the Washington Capitals to a 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers in the first outing for both teams following the Olympic break.
Ovechkin added a pair of assists in addition to his game-winner, while Troy Brouwer netted two power-play goals to help the Capitals win three straight for the first time since Dec. 7-10.
Brooks Laich also had a goal and two helpers, with Nicklas Backstrom scoring once and assisting on another to support a 30-save effort from Braden Holtby.
"We figured out a way to win," Washington head coach Adam Oates said. "Some good moments, some sloppy, but hey, it's a win."
Brad Boyes registered two goals in the loss, the Panthers' sixth in seven contests, with Tomas Fleischmann and Drew Shore also lighting the lamp. Tim Thomas finished with 27 saves.
Shore and Boyes scored just 82 seconds apart midway through the third period as Florida battled back from a 4-2 deficit, but a turnover forced by Backstrom in the Panthers' zone later on enabled the Capitals to regain the upper hand for good.
Backstrom promptly sent the puck off the boards to Laich, who sent a pass across the crease that a streaking Ovechkin deposited into the net.
"You fight back and you fight back and you get it tied up and then you give them the winner," Florida head coach Peter Horachek said. "It's frustrating."
A tripping penalty to Joel Ward with under a minute left gave the Panthers an opportunity to draw even, but Holtby withstood the late charge with Thomas pulled for an extra skater.
Florida did convert a man-advantage chance earlier in the third, as Shore's shot from the left shot found its way through with Jimmy Hayes setting a screen to bring the Panthers within 4-3 at the 8:01 mark. Boyes tied it not long afterward, following up his own shot with a successful second-chance try.
Washington came out showing little rust from the extended layoff, putting up a pair of goals in the game's first 8 1/2 minutes to claim a 2-0 advantage.
Brouwer sent the Caps ahead while on their first power play, jamming a rebound of John Carlson's long drive past Thomas 5:48 after the opening faceoff.
Less than 2 1/2 minutes later, a turnover by Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell led to a 2-on-2 rush that ended with Laich one-timing a well-placed pass from Ovechkin into the Florida net.
The Panthers cut their deficit in half as the result of a Washington giveaway later in the period, as a misplay by defenseman Dmitry Orlov set up Fleischmann's tally off a Jesse Winchester five with 4:33 remaining in the session.
Boyes drew Florida even a mere 40 seconds into the second, corralling the rebound of Sean Bergenheim's initial attempt and firing a backhander into an opening. The Capitals answered a little over three minutes later, though, to surge back in front.
Backstrom potted the go-ahead marker at the 3:44 mark, following up Carlson's try that was blocked in front of the net and knocking in the loose puck
A tripping call to Panthers captain Ed Jovanovski late in the second enabled Washington to increase the margin, as Brouwer poked the rebound of Ovechkin's blast from the left circle through Thomas' pads 46.3 seconds prior to the intermission.
Brouwer has now scored five times during a three-game goal streak ... Washington improved to 9-0-1 in its last 10 meetings with Florida and hasn't lost in regulation to the Panthers since Feb. 1, 2012 ... Caps forward Marcus Johansson was held out of the contest after just returning from his native Sweden to resolve a passport issue, with Nicolas Deschamps making his NHL debut in his place ... Florida played without forwards Aleksander Barkov (knee) and Tomas Kopecky (concussion), both of whom were hurt during the Olympics ... Jovanovski recorded his 500th career point with an assist on Shore's goal.