Capitals Rally To Tie Panthers

Actor Cheyenne Jackson arrives at the post-performance cast party for "The Public Sings: A 50th Anniversary Celebration" in New York Jan. 30, 2006.
Both the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals made a recovery Saturday night.

The Panthers recovered from a 5-0 blowout at home to Vancouver on Friday night and the Capitals recovered after falling behind Saturday night for a 2-2 tie with Florida.

Calle Johansson's goal 6:21 into the third period helped the Capitals salvage the tie.

Washington, already missing six key players, learned after the game that Sergei Gonchar will be lost six-to-eight weeks with a sprained knee suffered in Friday night's 1-0 win at Buffalo and that Jaroslav Svejkovsky will be out 2-to-4 weeks with a sprained ankle from Saturday's game.

"It's been a frustrating start to the season with the way we've had the injuries," said Capitals goaltender Rick Tabaracci, who made his first start of the season in place of Olaf Kolzig.

Florida (2-1-3) is off to its best start in franchise history and a surprising early leader with Washington in the new Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference.

The Panthers, who outshot Washington 33-20, led 1-0 in the first period on Jaroslav Spacek's first career goal.

Washington (3-2-2) tied it on a second-period goal by Joe Juneau. Viktor Kozlov scored 4:35 into the third period before Washington tied it again on Johansson's slap shot.

The Panthers got a point Saturday despite coach Terry Murray's decision to bench Robert Svehla and Ray Whitney after Friday's debacle against Vancouver.

"Tonight was a good bounce-back for us after last night," Murray said. "When things aren't going right, changes are going to be made."

Svehla, who had only missed four games in his last three seasons, and Whitney were two of the Panthers' top three scorers last season.

"Anytime you have your two top players (scratched), that definitely sends a message," Florida defenseman Ed Jovanovski said.

Florida was already minus the services of injured veteran scorers Dino Ciccarelli (back) and Scott Mellanby (groin).

Washington was far from full strength Saturday, also, with Michael Pivonka (shoulder), Jan Bullis (ankle), Steve Konowalchuk (ankle), Richard Zednik (shoulder), Joe Reekie (foot) and Andrei Nikolishin (holdout) all missing.

The Capitals were planning to call up James Black and Nolan Baumgartner to replace Gonchar and Svejkovsky.

"It's going to get better when we get our guys back," Johansson said. "Winning the division is a big thing to play for because you get home-ice advantage."

Spacek, the Panthers' fifth-round choice in the June draft, scored on a power play 6:09 into the game.

Washington has survived 22 of its last 23 shorthanded situations before Spacek's goal. It was Florida's first goal in the first period this season and the Panthers' first power-play gol in 15 opportunities.

The Capitals managed just nine shots in the first two periods against Panthers goaltender Sean Burke.

"From the puck drop to the siren in overtime everybody came to play tonight," Jovanovski said.

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