Despite the recent history between the teams, there was legitimate reason to worry about the Washington Capitals suffering a letdown on Thursday night against the visiting Florida Panthers. Fortunately for fans at the Verizon Center, it took less than nine minutes of hockey for those concerns to disappear.
The Caps scored on their first two shots of the game, then added two more in the opening 8:10 to jump all over the Panthers in what ended up as a 7-1 blowout. Alex Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolskieach had a goal and two assists on a night that saw 12 Washington skaters record points.
It was a night to forget for Florida goalie Jacob Markstrom, albeit a brief one. John Erskine beat him with a shot from the Panthers blue line just 1:58 in, and Wolski tucked the puck by him from behind the net for goals on the only two shots Markstrom faced. Coach Kevin Dineen saw enough, summoning Scott Clemmensen at the 3:10 mark.
He didn’t fare too much better. An offensive zone faceoff win by Nicklas Backstrom ended up on the stick of John Carlson, who fired home his fourth goal of the season at 5:38 of the first period. Mike Ribeiro was left alone in front to make it 4-0 a few minutes later, and the rout was officially on. The four goals in 8:10 marked the second-fastest time in franchise history to reach that total, eclipsed only by the 6:36 that the Caps needed in a 7-5 victory over the Minnesota North Stars on January 21, 1986.
The only drama on this particular night was seeing if Braden Holtby could earn his fourth shutout of 2013. He made 29 saves on the night, but was beaten by Jack Skille with 9:11 left in the final frame to spoil his bid.
For the second straight game, a Capitals player scored a late goal that is guaranteed to make highlight reels everywhere (even on ESPN). Tuesday’s overtime winner by Eric Fehr meant more in the standings, but Mathieu Perreault‘s icing on the cake score was no less spectacular, turning defenseman Colby Robak inside out before firing high on Clemmensen while falling forward.
Washington has now beaten Florida all three times they’ve played this season, six straight times overall and 10 of the last 11 at Verizon Center. They face off only once more in 2013, but as the Caps continue their long road back to .500, they no doubt wish it was more than that.
The game was over when…
Markstrom obviously didn’t have it going from the opening faceoff. Allowing Erskine to score through the seven hole from the blue line was inexcusable, and Wolski’s goal could have been prevented by at least attempting a poke check. The Capitals outplayed the injury-plagued Panthers the rest of the way too, but Markstrom put his squad in an unenviable position from the very start.
The unsung Capitals hero was…
Defenseman Steven Oleksy for the second straight game. Not only did he have his first multi-point night with a pair of assists, he also dished out some serious checks to Shawn Matthias and Mike Santorelli. He’s made an immediate impact in more than one sense of the word.