The shootout is dumb and bad. It is a sideshow, a skills competition, a way to decide a hockey game that bears only the slightest resemblance to hockey. It is a poor answer to a question no one was asking. And yet, every once in a while, a shootout gets so absurd, so endlessly, deliriously bananas, that it nearly justifies its own existence. Nearly.

Last night's record-breaking 20-round shootout between the Panthers and Capitals, eventually won by Nick Bjugstad on his second go-round, had a fever-dream quality not unlike a multi-OT playoff game, only compressed; if it's going to go long, you find yourself hoping it never ends. It inspired a loopily perfect lede from the Washington Post's Alex Prewitt:

By the end, when the dust had settled on NHL's longest shootout ever and the visitors had begun reconciling a loss with the thrill of making history, the box score looked like the love note of an overzealous middle-schooler.

For the Washington Capitals: XXXOXXOXXOOXXXXXOXXX

For the Florida Panthers: XXXOXXOXXOOXXXXXOXXO

Watch it. All of it. All 18 minutes, every round. No skipping ahead. I'll know.

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"I've never seen anything like that," Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said. "The great thing is I don't know how many time guys bailed me out where they had to score to keep it alive, and they did every time. It was amazing."

Or, alternately:

Five times the Capitals scored, forcing the Panthers to match or skate off with a single point., and five times the Panthers answered. Finally, in the 20th round, Alex Ovechkin shot wide, and Bjugstad roofed it.

Click here to view this video.nhl.com embed.

A lovely move, but this doesn't come close to being the greatest shootout of all time. That honor still belongs to the Rangers' and Capitals' 15-rounder in 2005 (three players—Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, and Tomas Fleischmann—took part in both), and what still remains the most amazing shootout climax imaginable.