WASHINGTON -- Less than 24 hours after ripping everyone but three players on his team for a lack of effort, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen's message seemed to be heard loud and clear.
A desperate group of Panthers played as if their families and jobs were being threatened as they clawed back from two one-goal deficits before falling to the Washington Capitals, 3-2, in a shootout Saturday night at the Verizon Center, which has been a house of horrors through the years.
The 7-7 Capitals may not be Southeast Division rivals any more now that they're in the newly formed Metropolitan Division, but they still own the 3-8-3 Panthers, who they've beaten eight straight times overall and eight in a row in the nation's capital.
Trailing 2-1 and on a power play, Jonathan Huberdeau won his puck battle behind the net. Eventually Tomas Fleischmann ripped in a bullet from an acute angle to tie it with 2:38 left. The Panthers had failed on their first five power plays and the PPG snapped the Capitals' streak of 33 straight successful penalty kills.
"We needed that," Fleischmann said. "We had a step in a good direction. We played as a team for all 60 minutes and that's how we'll get two points next game."
However, Huberdeau was stopped in the shootout after rookie Aleksander Barkov notched his first career shootout tally against Capitals backup Michael Nuevirth (31 saves).
Panthers backup Scott Clemmensen played well in his first NHL start in over six months, but was beaten by all three Caps' shooters with the winner going to Brooks Laich.
"We played great especially in this building," said Clemmensen, who had 21 saves. "Me personally, I was rusty out there but the team gave me a chance to get into it."
Perhaps to further emphasize his demand for 100 percent effort after Friday's listless 4-0 loss to St. Louis, Dineen benched one of his top-six forwards in Kris Versteeg and also scratched Sean Bergenheim because of soreness after his long layoff.
"It was such a difference in the hockey game, the tone, the tempo, the compete level," Dineen said. "It's about possession. We want our skilled players to have the puck on their stick. It's a matter of earning it.
"Overall, that's a good snapshot of the potential we can give, but disappointing not to get the (extra) point, but we were certainly happy with the effort."
Versteeg, who has three years remaining worth $14 million and has made a remarkable recovery from ACL surgery last March, couldn't remember ever being a healthy scratch.
"It's not fun; it's like a kick to the midsection," said Versteeg, who averaged 19:55 ice time in 2011-12, but just 15:54 this season as well as a season-low 10:54 on Friday.
"This is the first time going through this. It's not pleasant. I want to help the guys, and I've played for some pretty good teams. It's up to the coaches who they want to put on the ice."
Dineen didn't mince words about Versteeg's first career healthy scratch.
"That's indicative of his play the last week," Dineen said. "Steeger's looked really frustrated over the last three games and in all honesty he hasn't played well."
The Caps won their second in a row without superstar forward Alex Ovechkin, who had scored 10 goals in his first 12.
The Panthers dominated the first period, outshooting the Capitals 11-5, but their fourth shot lit the lamp as Nicklas Backstrom's wrister eluded Clemmensen's glove at 16:41.
One of the three players Dineen singled out for hustling Friday, Jesse Winchester, tied it 1-1 at 8:20 of the second period when Upshall's pass sprung him loose for a breakaway which he went 5-hole on Neuvirth for his third goal.
Just 36 seconds later, Latta sent a tape-to-tape pass to defenseman John Carlson, who went top shelf to give Washington a 2-1 lead after two.
The other two effort players mentioned by Dineen were defenseman Mike Weaver and forward Shawn Matthias.
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