First period puts Caps on Easy Street

First period puts Caps on Easy Street
March 7, 2013, 10:45 pm
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Call it a carry-over from the brilliant comeback Tuesday or taking advantage of injury-riddled team, either way the Capitals were unstoppable against Florida. A first-period outburst of four goals paved the way to an easy 7-1 romp over the Panthers.

With starting goalie Jose Theodore on the shelf with a groin-muscle injury, the Panthers turned to highly-touted prospect Jacob Markstrom between the pipes. Braden Holtby received yet another starting nod from Adam Oates, his 11th in succession—most by a Caps goalie since Olie Kolzig in 2003.

Markstrom’s night would be very short-lived and unsuccessful. On the first shot the Swede would face, John Erskine blasted a slapshot from just inside the blueline that skipped off the goalie and into the cage.

A little over a minute later, Wojtek Wolski caught Markstrom by surprise. The former Panther snuck in from below the goal-line to stuff a forehand shot past the goalie’s stick side.

Two goals on two shots in 3:10 would spell the end of the night for Markstrom. Coach Kevin Dineen tabbed Scott Clemmensen to replace him, but the veteran keeper would not fare any better.

Off a faceoff win, the Caps struck again when a point-drive from John Carlson zipped through traffic (possibly off of defenseman Tyson Strachan) and past Clemmensen.

The opening-period onslaught continued when a Matt Hendricks forecheck forced a turnover below the goal-line. Alex Ovechkin spotted Mike Ribeiro alone in the slot and put a backhand feed right on his blade. Ribeiro snapped it past Clemmensen to improve his goal-scoring streak to three straight games.

For Washington, four goals in just over eight minutes of work put the Panthers to sleep in a hurry.

In the second period there was a scary moment for the home team involving Jason Chimera. He was the victim of a late hit and a high hit from Panthers defenseman Tyson Strachan. Chimera was curling through center ice after making a pass to the boards, the puck was gone and Chimera was unsuspecting and defenseless as Strachan lined him up. The officials ruled it a five-minute major penalty for interference and bounced Strachan from the game.

Chimera was woozy as he made his way to the dressing room, but did return to action.

Alex Ovechkin would score on the following power-play opportunity, taking a nice pass from Troy Brouwer and slamming a slapshot home from close range.

Carrying a 5-0 advantage into the final 20 minutes, head coach Adam Oates was able to rest some of his top-minute performers.

The Caps weren’t finished scoring, however. With another power-play chance, Wolski made a sweet cross-ice pass to Eric Fehr who remained hot by cashing in his sixth goal on the year.

Lost in the offensive explosion was another fine goaltending performance from Holtby, who made several strong saves throughout the night. He was gunning for a league-leading fourth shutout when Jack Skille spoiled the party. Skille snapped a wrist shot through a screen that beat Braden on the blocker side with 9:11 to go in the game.

Mathieu Perreault put a bow on the scoring with a beautiful goal that came with only 59 seconds to play. Perreault put a great move on Florida defender Colby Robak, and finished with a wrist shot up high.

The Capitals win, coupled with a Carolina loss, puts them six points back of the Hurricanes for the top spot in the Southeast Division, with two huge games between those teams looming next week.

Before then, the Caps travel to Long Island for a Saturday 1 p.m. match-up against the New York Islanders, a game that can be seen on Comcast SportsNet.