Highlights: Caps blow out Panthers
During his Hall of Fame playing career, Adam Oates went through his share of lopsided wins and losses.
So his message to his players following their 7-1 win over the Florida Panthers was surprisingly direct.
“Almost like it happened against us,” he said. “You gotta throw that tape away. The league’s not that easy. It’s one of those nights. Let’s go back to work.”
Seven different players found the back of the net and Mike Ribeiro and Alex Ovechkin each recorded a goal and two assists to lead the Caps to their most one-sided victory of the season.
John Erskine, Wojtek Wolski, John Carlson, Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perreualt also scored and Braden Holtby turned aside 29 of 30 shots in the win.
The Caps are now 8-3-0 in their last 11 games. They were 2-8-1 after their first 11.
As a result, they have improved to 10-11-1 and have begun a steady climb up the Eastern Conference standings, where they are now in 12th place with 21 points, five behind the eighth-place Rangers, who visit the Caps on Sunday.
“The goal is to get above .500,” said Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner. “We started so bad it was a big hole to climb out of and it didn’t look good. We’re just happy we’re winning games right now. We don’t want to be a .500 team; we want to be much above that.”
The Caps’ onslaught started just 1:58 into the game when defenseman John Erskine unloaded a shot from the blue line that bounced off the right pad of Jacob Markstrom and under his right arm.
Wojtek Wolski made it 2-0 when he stuffed in a wraparound just 72 seconds later for his second goal in as many games, sending Markstrom to the showers and bringing in backup Scott Clemmenssen.
“We just wanted to keep shooting,” said Ovechkin. “I think their whole team was shocked.”
Panthers coach Kevin Dinneen was more angry than shocked, especially after Clemmenssen allowed two more goals on the Caps’ next six shots.
After a faceoff win by Nicklas Backstrom., Carlson scored on a slapshot for his fourth goal of the season at the 5:38 mark. Ribeiro made it 4-0 when he hammered a nice feed from Alex Ovechkin from the left circle for his ninth of the season, tying him with Troy Brouwer for the team lead.
After that, Oates was simply hoping none of his players got hurt.
“I’ve been there and it’s hard,” Oates said. “Even the fans, it’s not the same intensity in the building. My real concern is I didn’t want to get somebody hurt because they’re not going 100 percent.”
That nearly happened midway through the second period when Jason Chimera was clocked with a blindside hit by Tyson Strachan. Chimera went to the Caps locker room but returned to finish the game.
Strachan was given a 5-minute major for interference and likely will face a hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Friday.
“I think it was a little late, I do,” Oates said. “I’m just glad Chimmer’s OK.”
As convincing as the victory was, the Caps say they simply want to turn the page and move forward to what promises to be an even more important weekend against the Islanders and Rangers.
“Of course everybody’s happy, but we’re not jumping around,” Ovechkin said. “That might only happen once a year, but we’ll take it.”