A historic and dramatic shootout victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night brought plenty of attention to a franchise not used to a whole lot of positive publicity.
The Florida Panthers’ rousing 2-1 victory over the Capitals — which came following an NHL-record, 20-round shootout — brought the Panthers national recognition and league-wide praise.
The longest shootout before Tuesday came months after the 2004-05 lockout ended with the Rangers topping Washington in 15 rounds.
“It was fun when it ended,” coach Gerard Gallant told XM/Sirius Radio on Wednesday afternoon.
“It was pretty exciting to go 20 shooters in. It was a good game at 1-1 and I thought both teams played real well. There was a little bit of everything.”
The Capitals had five chances to win the shootout, but the Panthers — who chose to shoot second — held serve each time.
Tied at 5 going into Round 20, Roberto Luongo made a diving stop of an Alex Ovechkin shot.
That allowed Nick Bjugstad to become the hero. Bjugstad drove in on Braden Holtby, slammed on the brakes and got him to commit.
With Holtby heading toward the ice, Bjugstad roofed a shot that sent his teammates streaming onto the ice as rubber rats rained down from the crowd.
Florida’s wild victory was featured prominently on ESPN's SportsCenter, Fox Sports 1 and the NHL Network in the United States as well as their Canadian counterparts.
“The pressure wasn’t really on me, which was nice, because I didn’t have to score,” Bjugstad said. “I don’t know, I kind of relaxed, took a deep breath and tried going in there with confidence and it worked out.”
There were plenty of accolades to go around Tuesday.
After no one scored after the first three rounds, Washington took its first lead in Round 4, when Ovechkin scored on his first try.
Jussi Jokinen, historically one of the top shootout artists in the league, came up and made a terrific move on Holtby to get him to go to his left. Jokinen then poked the puck around to Holtby’s right for the tying goal to earn ESPN’s No.3 top play of the night.
The score stayed tied at 1 until Round7 when Brooks Laich scored — only to be matched by Dave Bolland.
Florida also returned the honors in Round11 (Derek MacKenzie), 12 (Sean Bergenheim) and 17 (Dylan Olsen).
“First-ever shootout,” Olsen said, “little nervous, to be honest, especially when it came down to that and we needed a goal. I really have only one or two moves, so I had to stick with that one. And sure enough it worked.”
Said Gallant: “Some clutch guys made some clutch goals.”
With 18 active skaters, each team hit the end of their rotation in Round18. Then Florida defenseman Willie Mitchell tried to end it.
“We saved the captain for the end,” Gallant said. “We thought he was going to win it for us.”
Only, he was stopped and the shootout continued.
In Round 19, players were allowed to go a second time. Washington went with Nicklas Backstrom, and Florida with Jokinen.
Neither scored, setting the stage for another showdown between Ovechkin and Luongo.
Luongo, although looking tired, made the big save to give Bjugstad his chance at another shootout winner.
“I was OK,” Luongo said. “We do it at morning skate every day. I was just trying to make the next save. Once you get into the later rounds, their guys are little bit less skilled and you want to make those saves. A couple went by, but the boys bailed me out.”
Even before going to the shootout, Tuesday’s game had plenty of excitement to it.
Florida led 1-0 on a goal by Derek MacKenzie in the first period before Washington tied it in the second period with a power-play goal.
Tied at 1 late in the third, Washington looked to win it when Laich knocked in a puck. Laich kicked it in, however, and the goal was disallowed via video review in Toronto.
The game pressed on.
Bjugstad could have been the game’s hero much earlier Tuesday.
In overtime, one of his shots hit the goal post. He also drilled a post in his first shootout attempt, which would have given the Panthers a 1-0 lead in Round2 and perhaps sent everyone home early.
Instead, South Florida became home to two of the longest games in professional sports history.
The Dolphins-Chiefs AFC title game in 1971 stands as the longest NFL game of all time.
Florida’s win over the Capitals earns the NHL’s honor for a regular-season game as the shootout itself took more than 20 minutes to complete. That was after 65 minutes of game time in regulation and overtime.
“Now I can go to bed!” radio voice Randy Moller yelled after Bjugstad scored in the 20th round.
Luongo posted on Twitter: “I blacked out what just happened?”
▪ The Panthers sent defenseman Shane O’Brien back to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. O’Brien was recalled last week but was a healthy scratch in the three games he was with Florida.
When/where: 7 p.m.; Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.
TV/radio: FSFL; 560 AM.
Series: Philadelphia leads 46-31-7.
Noteworthy: The two teams have split the two-game series, with the Flyers winning the previous meeting 4-1 in Philadelphia last month.
Florida outlasts Washington in longest shootout in NHL history, winning 6-5 in Round 20.
Round 1: Eric Fehr (Wsh) slapshot X; Jonathan Huberdeau (FL) snapshot wide X -- 0-0
Round 2: Nicklas Backstrom (Wsh) backhand X; Nick Bjugstad (FL) slapshot off goalpost X -- 0-0
Round 3: Evgeny Kuznetsov (Wsh) snapshot X; Brad Boyes (FL) backhand X -- 0-0
Round 4: Alex Ovechkin (Wsh) snapshot Y; Jussi Jokinen (FL) backhand Y -- 1-1.
Round 5: Troy Brouwer (Wsh) slapshot crossbar X; Tomas Kopecky (FL) backhand X -- 1-1.
Round 6: Michael Latta (Wsh) slapshot X; Aleksander Barkov (FL) puck off skate X -- 1-1.
Round 7: Brooks Laich (Wsh) backhand Y; Dave Bolland (FL) snapshot Y -- 2-2.
Round 8: Marcus Johansson (Wsh) slapshot X; Tomas Fleischmann (FL) backhand X -- 2-2
Round 9: Nate Schmidt (Wsh) snapshot wide of net X; Scottie Upshall (FL) slapshot X -- 2-2
Round 10: Joel Ward (Wsh) snapshot Y; Derek MacKenzie (FL) backhand Y -- 3-3
Round 11: John Carlson (Wsh) snapshot Y; Sean Bergenheim (FL) backhand Y -- 4-4
Round 12: Jay Beagle (Wsh) backhand X; Jimmy Hayes (FL) snapshot X -- 4-4
Round 13: Mike Green (Wsh) slapshot over net X; Brian Campbell (FL) snapshot X -- 4-4
Round 14: Jason Chimera (Wsh) slapshot wide of net X; Erik Gudbranson (FL) slapshot X -- 4-4
Round 15: Tom Wilson (Wsh) slapshot X; Aaron Ekblad (FL) slapshot X -- 4-4
Round 16: Matt Niskanen (Wsh) slapshot crossbar X; Dmitry Kulikov (FL) slapshot X -- 4-4
Round 17: Brooks Orpik (Wsh) slapshot Y; Dylan Olsen (FL) slapshot Y -- 5-5
Round 18: Karl Alzner (Wsh) slapshot X; Willie Mitchell (FL) backhand X -- 5-5
Round 19: Backstrom (Wsh) snapshot X; Jokinen (FL) slapshot X -- 5-5
Round 20: Ovechkin (Wsh) slapshot X; Bjugstad (FL) slapshot Y -- Florida wins 6-5
NHL -- Regular season: Florida Panthers 2, Washington Capitals 1 (20 rounds shootout) Dec. 16, 2014; Playoffs: Detroit Red Wings 1, Montreal Canadiens 0 (6 OT - 116:30) March 24, 1936.
NBA -- Indianapolis Olympians 75, Rochester Royals 73 (6 OT - 78:00) Jan. 6, 1951.
NFL -- Miami Dolphins 27, Kansas City Chiefs 24 (2 OT - 82:40 in 1971 AFC championship game) Dec. 25, 1971.
MLB -- Chicago White Sox 7, Milwaukee Brewers 6 (33 innings, 8:06) May 8, 1984.