Panthers hold on to beat Caps 5-4; NHL realigns for 2012-2013

The Caps were listless in the first 40 minutes in South Florida, but woke up just in time to give the home-standing Panthers a scare on Monday night. 

The Panthers jumped all over Dale Hunter and the visiting Caps with a three-goal spree in the first period  on goals by Stephen Weiss, Mike Santorelli and Dmitry Kulikov. Mike Knuble answered late in the first for the Caps to make it 3-1 'Cats at the end of the first. 

Michal Neuvirth, getting the start in place of ex-Panther Tomas Vokoun, wasn't very good. He allowed three goals on 11 shots in the first, including a softy to Santorelli,  but didn't get much help from the team in front of him either. 

He was better as the game went along, making a couple big saves in the second period despite allowing two more goals to keep the Caps from being further in a hole.

Rookie Cody Eakin responded with his third goal of the season following two Panther goals to stretch the lead to 5-1 early in the second to make it 5-2 at the end of 40 minutes. 

But the Caps had a late surge in them in the third period.

Brooks Laich brought the Caps within two at the 12:09 mark of the third period with sixth goal of the season assisted by Joel Ward and John Carlson. Then with just under three minutes left in the game, Jason Chimera's 11th goal of the season brought the previously lifeless Caps within a goal at 5-4. 

After a mad scramble with a minute left and Neuvirth pulled, the Panthers were able to survive and get the win and two points at home. 

It was great effort from the Caps to not simply quit after being in a 5-1 hole, but they can't expect to win games when spotting teams huge leads. Despite the awful start, that's something to be encouraged about for Dale Hunter and his staff. 

The bad news, it was yet another loss for the boys from D.C., their third in four games under Hunter's lead, and the Panthers showed that they aren't going anywhere this season and are for real. 


Other big news in the NHL was the board of governors approval of a realignment for next season, below was posted on The Hockey House website regarding the changes: 

The new Realignment will feature a 4 Conference format, 2 Conferences of 8 teams, and 2 Conferences of 7 teams. The West will feature the 2 Conferences of 8 teams while the East will feature the 2 Conferences of 7 teams.

Teams will play at least 2 times against each team outside their conferences, playing one at home and one on the road. In the 7 team Conferences, we will see each team playing each other 6 times a year. In the 8 team Conferences, we will see each team playing each other 5-6 times a year, that will be a rotating format changing every season.

The playoff format will see the top 4 teams from each Conference make the playoffs. The 1st-place teams would play the 4th-place teams and the 2nd place teams would play the 3rd-place teams in their respective Conferences. In the 3rd round of the playoffs, the Conference champions would play one another with the 2 survivors making it to the finals.

Conference 1: MTL, TOR, OTT, BOS, BUF, FLD, TB

Conference 2: PHI, PIT, NYR, NYI, NJD, WSH, CAR

Conference 3: LAK, ANA, SJS, VAN, CGY, EDM, COL, PHX

Conference 4: DET, CHI, STL, MIN, NSH, CLB, WPG, DAL


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