Kris Beech was happy to get the first one under his belt, the first goal of the season being tough for some guys to score.
But it wasn't until after the game that Beech learned that his goal last night in a 5-2 victory over Florida at Verizon Center was the first goal he had ever scored for the Washington Capitals, the team that drafted him seventh overall in 1999.
"Are you sure?" he said, perhaps losing track after seven seasons of trades and repeated tries to make it in the NHL. He had 10 goals one season for Pittsburgh (he was a key element in the trade that brought Jaromir Jagr to the Caps) and one for Nashville, but none for Washington. He has played just 114 NHL games since he was drafted.
"I didn't realize that," he said when the significance of the goal finally did dawn on him. "I should have known that obviously but, hey, that's a lot more meaningful than just getting your first goal of the season. I wasn't even thinking about that. That's great."
Washington bunched five goals into the first 15 minutes of the first period and let that stand while extending Florida's losing streak on the road this season to four (outscored 17-4). It was the first time the Caps (2-1-2) had scored five in one period since the first period on Feb. 12, 2003, a 5-1 victory over Atlanta.
The win was memorable for the Caps. Florida came into the game with a seven-game unbeaten streak in Washington; the Caps hadn't beaten the Panthers at home since April 1, 2003.
Besides Beech, Alexander Semin, Chris Clark, Jamie Heward and Matt Bradley scored for the Caps while Jozef Stumpel and Nathan Horton scored power play goals for the Panthers. Olie Kolzig went the distance for the Caps, turning aside 34 shots. Alex Auld started for Florida but never got out of the first period, giving up four; he was replaced by veteran Ed Belfour.
"I'm just happy to have the opportunity to play," said Beech, who was re-acquired last spring when the Caps sent defenseman Brendan Witt to Nashville. "I'm getting ice time and it's up to me to use it to play my game, to work hard and to do good things for this team."
Beech was in a multi-player dogfight for one of the final roster spots and earned a chance to center the second line with Semin and Richard Zednik, both of whom had two points last night. Beech has points in four of five games and is emerging as the team's top faceoff man.
At the same time Heward is the goal leader among defensemen with a pair.
"You take things when they come to you," the defenseman said. "I've had a couple pretty good opportunities and been able to capitalize on them. It's been a pleasure to play with a guy like Mike Green; he makes plays when you don't expect them and he gives us the ability to do good things."
Notes -- Defenseman Bryan Muir was the lone healthy scratch last night; left wing Matt Pettinger (upper body) and center Boyd Gordon (lower body) were medical scratches. ...
Clark, the Caps captain, has points (two goals and five assists for seven points) in five straight games, the longest streak of his career.