<
>

Ovechkin scores 51st goal; Caps nip Panthers in shootout

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Matt Pettinger made up for his missed
penalty shot in the shootout.

Pettinger beat Jamie McLennan with a low shot in the fourth
round of a shootout and Brent Johnson stopped Jozef Stumpel's
attempt to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 victory over the
Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

"I pretty much knew I needed to do something different," said
Pettinger, who came up empty on a penalty shot in the first period.
"The five hole opened up and I put it there."

The Capitals had lost eight straight against Florida.

"It's always nice to come in and win one of the last games, and
our last game against them this season," Pettinger said. "It
doesn't mean too much in terms of the playoff, but it's good to
win."

Dainius Zubrus scored for the Capitals in the second round of
the shootout, and Florida's Olli Jokinen tied it in the third
round.

Gary Roberts opened the scoring for the Panthers with his 14th
goal of the season, a wrist shot made from inside the crease at
5:13 into the second period.

Joe Nieuwendyk earned his 29th assist of the season by setting
up the goal. Van Ryn also was credited with an assist on the goal,
his 29th of the season.

Just minutes later, rookie sensation Alex Ovechkin, only the
second player in NHL history to record 50 goals and 100 points in
his rookie year, pulled the Capitals even with his 51st goal of the
season.

Ovechkin, tied for third with Nieuwendyk for 51 goals in a NHL
rookie season, skated from just over the blue line without any
Panthers defenders in sight to snap a wrist shot from the crease
past McLennan at 13:07 into the period.

Ovechkin started the shootout but was unable to get the puck
past McLennan.

"It's like a lottery," Ovechkin said. "Sometimes it goes in,
sometimes it doesn't."

Despite the loss, Panthers coach Jacques Martin said McLennan
gave the team a chance to win.

"I thought Jamie gave us a strong game," Martin said. "It
could have been anybody's game; we probably had a great opportunity
to win it with less than a minute. In overtime we had another
chance."

Game notes
Panthers Ds Joel Kwiatkowski, Jamie Aliison and Ric Jackman
and C Anthony Stewart were healthy scratches. C Rostislav Olesz
also was scratched. ... Capitals D Jamie Heward was in South
Florida but scratched with an upper body injury. Capitals C Brian
Sutherby, who has a lower body injury, as well as D Jameson Hunt
and RW Matt Stefanishion did not make the trip with the team.