Friday, October 21, 2005

SUNRISE, Fla. — For the first 20 minutes last night, the Washington Capitals looked like they might win their first road game of the season.

After the second 20, there was little chance.

Washington got out to a great start, then basically stopped playing as the Florida Panthers waltzed to a 3-2 victory made possible by a host of Caps errors and undisciplined play.

Alex Ovechkin scored both goals — his fifth and sixth of the season — but they weren’t enough for the Caps after a poor second period.

How ineffective were the Caps in that period? The Panthers took 28 shots on goal, a franchise record for both teams. In fact, in the first 11 minutes of the period, Florida outshot Washington 19-1.

The Caps entered the period tied 1-1 but were unable to get the puck out of their end, constantly turning it over when they had chances to drill it out of the zone. Florida’s domination was so thorough that at one point in the middle of the second period the Panthers partially changed lines three times while keeping Washington penned in for 92 seconds with the same exhausted, ineffective Caps on the ice the whole time.

That Florida finally would slam a couple through goalie Olie Kolzig was inevitable. Veteran defenseman Jamie Heward botched a routine breakout on a power play and was stripped of the puck, and Juraj Kolnik scored short-handed, drilling a wrist shot into the short side 12:07 into the period.

Mike Van Ryn followed less than four minutes with a power-play goal, his first of the season. Washington has gone four consecutive games without a power-play goal and has allowed a power-play goal in six of its eight games.

It could have been worse for the Caps, much worse. The only thing that prevented that was Kolzig, who made 46 saves and more than gave his team a chance to win. He was the only effective player on the ice for Washington but got little support.

“Ollie gave us an opportunity to win a game as he always does,” coach Glen Hanlon said. “But at the end of the night we didn’t deserve to win the hockey game.”

Ovechkin’s first goal came within the game’s first two minutes, and Florida protested it unsuccessfully, claiming the goalie had it frozen. Brian Willsie tried to poke his own rebound through goalie Roberto Luongo, but the goalie blocked him. Ovechkin circled the cage and finished off the job, meaning he has scored at least a point in each of Washington’s eight games.

“We’re lucky to have him,” Hanlon said. “He’s an incredible person. He’s had a great start to his season and it continues for him.”

Anthony Stewart, who was playing in his second NHL game, tied the score for Florida a little more than four minutes later.

Notes — Left wing Matt Pettinger (for the third straight game) and defenseman Mathieu Biron (second straight) were the healthy scratches. Defenseman Bryan Muir (groin) did not make the trip, while right wing Stephen Peat is out with a broken hand. …

The Caps play host to Carolina tomorrow night, then are off until Wednesday, when they play Buffalo in Rochester, N.Y. …

The Panthers had four forwards out with injuries (they got two back last night) and were forced to press former Washington defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski into service as a forward. Kwiatkowski played for coach Jacques Martin in Ottawa and was signed as a free agent shortly after Martin was named coach.

• The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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