The Washington Times - February 15, 2009, 08:32PM

Alex Ovechkin had “only” one goal in his past four games before this weekend. A little time in Florida sun did him well, as he potted a hat trick to carry the Caps past the Panthers this evening. Here’s a few quick notes about the 4-2 victory:

* The Southeast Division race is over. It was almost certainly over a couple of weeks ago, but now there is 99.999 percent no doubt that a second straight division title banner is going to the rafters at Verizon Center in October.


Florida had a chance this weekend to cut the lead to seven points with some help. Thanks to the two wins, it is now 13 with 25 to play for the Caps (26 for the Panthers). The Panthers have been hot lately (7-2-1) but most of those wins are against weak or struggling teams. Their next seven games are against Boston (twice) New Jersey (twice), the N.Y. Rangers, Chicago and finishes with a trip to Washington. That’s the ballgame, folks.

* Alex Ovechkin, barring injury, is nearly a mortal lock to collect his second-straight MVP. Besides leading the league with 41 goals he also has the most third-period tallies (20) and the most game-winners (9). 

He might have been called for offensive pass interference on the GWG tonight if this were football, but he collected Nicklas Backstrom’s long stretch pass and then snapped a shot through Jay Bouwmeester’s legs for No. 40. Then, despite a broken stick, he deposited an empty-netter from the defensive zone to seal the game. 

Oh yeah, he also told Tomas Vokoun during pre-game warmups that he would score two on him — and then went and did it (plus an empty-netter for good measure). 

* After being much-maligned for yielding a PP goal in 13 straight games, the Caps are 20 of 21 in the past four contests on the PK. The Caps took way too many penalties tonight (8) including back-to-back puck-over-the-glass infractions by Sergei Fedorov and Backstrom, but the guys on the PK went 7-for-8.

Boudreau on the delays of game: “We thought the glass was higher tonight.”

* Mike Green’s goal streak ended, but he had a pretty good night. Green was held without a point for the first time since Jan. 20 against Ottawa.

* Eric Fehr continues to light it up. He’s got six goals in seven games and nine points in the eight games since he rejoined the lineup after a few nights as a healthy scratch. He had the hard hat on tonight — the last time he earned it he was a healthy sit the next game. That won’t be the case this time.