The goal horn started to sound like a broken record. The red light twirled behind two different Florida Panthers goaltenders. Washington Capitals fans at Verizon Center chanted “We want wings” less than nine minutes into the first period.
There was no drama necessary. The Caps simply took care of business by shellacking a wounded and woeful Florida team 7-1 on Thursday night.
House of Pain’s “Jump Around” played in the victorious locker room, but players didn’t celebrate the drubbing.
“Of course everybody happy, but we don’t jumping around,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “In that kind of game it was kind of easy.”
It was the kind of blowout that was impressive but should have been expected against the Panthers, who were playing without seven regulars, including two first-liners, one of their top defensemen and their starting goaltender.
“It feels nice,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We felt like we had a pretty good chance with their injuries and stuff. We thought that would help us out a lot. … But yeah, that’s a game we needed to win, and we’re happy we got it.”
The Caps did everything they needed to pounce on their opportunities and extend their winning streak to three. In the process, they kept from falling into last place in the Eastern Conference and made up ground on the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. They finished the night 12th in the East.
“For the standings it’s real big,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We had a couple nice bounces as far as our luck goes, and we were able to take it from there.”
For a Caps team looking for a good start, it doesn’t get much better than obliterating the Panthers with four goals in the first 8:10. It was the second-fastest to four goals in team history; the only better came Jan. 21, 1986, with four in 6:49.
“In this league or in any league everybody’s so good that usually – you don’t want to say easy night – but there’s not usually a night where you score goals in eight minutes and have a 4-0 lead,” said defenseman Steve Oleksy, who led the Caps in ice time.
By the time the night was over, seven different players scored a goal and 11 registered at least a point. Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolski each had three on a goal and two assists. And the Caps scored five-plus goals against the Panthers for the third time in as many meetings.
It was a beat-down in the purest form of the term.
“I think the goalie was really struggling,” Ovechkin said of Florida’s Jacob Markstrom, who gave up two goals on two shots. “We had two shots and it goes in. Of course it give us lots of belief and we feel unbelievable. Like after first two minutes. So it works.”
Coach Adam Oates called the hot start a “good luxury.” But he was worried.
“Really, right after that, you’re concerned that we’re going to be a little flat because the intensity drops really fast,” Oates said. “In a game like that, I don’t want to see one of my guys get hurt because you’re not mentally or physically engaged in the game. It’s a really tough thing.”
Jason Chimera took a blindside hit from Panthers defenseman Tyson Strachan in the second period, but the left wing managed to return. And the Caps managed not to let up.
“We were fresh off a game where we were down 3-0 in the first and we came back. I think that probably helped us that we knew it was far from over,” said goaltender Braden Holtby, who won his eight game in 11 straight starts. “We stuck with it. It’s hard to play your game in those last two periods when you have a lead, but I think we did a very good job of it.”
Oleksy said he had never been a part of a game like this. It’s rare for a team to blow an opponent out of an arena this badly.
That’s why Oates wasn’t talking about using this game as a confidence-building moving forward.
“Almost like if it happened against us where, like, we’ve got to throw the tape away,” he said. “The league’s not that easy. We’ve got to remove that. … Florida had one of those bad nights, and it’s over.”