Four the Fast Way – The Capitals came out clicking from the start of Thursday’s game with the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center. John Erskine gave Washington a 1-0 lead when his shot from outside the blueline trickled through rookie Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom before the game was two minutes old. Erskine’s goal came on the Caps’ first shot on goal of the night.
Ex-Panther Wojtek Wolski scored on the Caps’ second shot of the night, sending Markstrom and his .000 save pct. for the game to the bench in favor of Scott Clemmensen at 3:10 of the first.
John Carlson and Mike Ribeiro each dented Clemmensen before the halfway mark of the first, and Washington owned a commanding 4-0 lead at 8:10 of the frame. The Caps rode that fast start to a 7-1 win over Florida.
Seven different Capitals scored to support Braden Holtby’s 29-save efforts in the Washington nets. The Caps also combined forces to block 22 Florida shots on the night.
Caps coach Adam Oates saw Thursday night’s fast start and lopsided win for what it was, an anomaly in today’s NHL.
“Four goals is obviously a lot in the league,” says Oates. “Right after that, you’re concerned that we’re going to be a little flat because the intensity drops really fast. We didn’t really earn the goals; tough night for the goalies on a couple of them. It’s a good luxury, but after that you’re concerned that we’re going to lose our intensity.”
Oates’ other concern was that one of his players would get hurt, and that nearly came to fruition in the second period when Florida defenseman Tyson Strachan earned a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a late hit on Caps left wing Jason Chimera in neutral ice.
Chimera was slow to get up, but later returned to the game and seemed none the worse for wear.
“Your first concern in a game like that [is] I don’t want to see one of my guys get hurt because you’re not mentally or physically engaged in the game,” says Oates. “It’s a really tough thing. We just played Boston and we were down 3-0, and we came from behind so until we got that fifth one I wasn’t feeling very good.”
The swift start was the second fastest in Capitals history in terms of scoring four early goals. The Caps tallied four times in the first 6:49 of a Jan. 21, 1986 game against the Minnesota North Stars at the Capital Centre. Washington held on for a 7-5 win in that contest.
This One Goes to Eleven – Holtby started his 11th game in a row in Thursday, the longest such streak by any Capitals goaltender since Olie Kolzig started 16 games in a row early in the 2003-04 season, from Oct. 17 to Nov. 22, 2003.
During the life of his 11-game starts streak, Holtby is 8-3 with three shutouts, a 2.08 GAA and a .935 save pct.
This One Goes to Eleven, Too – The Capitals are now 11-0 in the 11 regular season games in which Erskine has scored a goal since joining the team at the start of the 2006-07 season.
Um, Yeah, This One Also Goes To Eleven – Eleven different Capitals picked up at least a point in Thursday’s romp over the Panthers.
A Tale of Two Elevens – It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.
In its first 11 games this season, Washington posted a dismal 2-8-1 record while averaging just 2.27 goals per game and surrendering an average of 3.73 goals per contest.
In those first 11 games, the Caps were 9-for-42 (21.4%) on the power play and they were just 36-for-51 (70.6%) on the penalty kill.
In its last 11 games since that 2-8-1 start, Washington has posted an 8-3 record. During that 11-game stretch, the Capitals have averaged 3.73 goals per game and they’ve surrendered an average of exactly two tallies per tilt.
Over its last 11 games, Washington is 13-for-34 (38.2%) on the power play and it is 30-for-35 (85.7%) on the penalty kill.
“It’s all the same stuff we talk about every day,” says Oates, of the team’s last 11 games, “the conditioning, the schedule, the system – all the stuff we talk about. The guys are playing better and good things are happening sometimes but all in all, in the last three weeks we’ve only had one bad game.”
Perhaps the most noteworthy difference is the number of times the Caps have put themselves shorthanded in the last 11 games, just 35 times compared to 51 in the team’s first 11 games.
On the season, the Caps have averaged three goals per game, tied for sixth in the NHL.
Southeast Stranglehold – Tonight’s win was Washington’s sixth in succession against Southeast Division foes this season. The Caps dropped their first two games of the season – both against Southeast Division foes – but have not lost a divisional contest since.
Washington has outscored Southeast opponents by a combined total of 28-9 and it has defeated all four of the other Southeast denizens at least once.
Powerful Stuff – Ribeiro notched a pair of power-play assists in Thursday’s game. He now has five goals and 10 assists on the power play for the Capitals this season, matching his power-play point total (15) from the entire 2011-12 season when he led the Dallas Stars in power-play scoring.
“It means that my teammates are scoring when I give them the puck,” shrugs Ribeiro. “It’s easier to pass than score, so it’s nice. There’s a reason why I came here and have a chance to play with all of those skilled players and try to help them get a [Stanley] Cup, or two, or three.”
Ribeiro leads the NHL in power-play scoring this season with 15 points, and he has had a hand in 15 of Washington’s 22 power-play goals (68.2%) this season.
Multiple Men – Ribeiro (one goal, two assists), Alex Ovechkin (one goal, two assists), Wolski (one goal, two assists), Carlson (goal, assist), Mathieu Perreault (goal, assist) and Steve Oleksy (two assists) gave the Caps seven players with multiple points in Thursday’s game.
No Zeroes – The Caps have scored at least one goal in each of 10 periods of hockey they’ve played against Florida this season, including an overtime session in Florida on Feb. 12 that lasted just 32 seconds.
Washington has scored 18 goals on 80 shots on goal (22.5%) this season and it has scored five power-play goals on just eight power-play shots on net (62.5%).
Fitting In Nicely – Playing in his second NHL game, Oleksy led the team with 22:13 in ice time on Thursday. He also picked up a pair of assists, and he now has three assists in his first two NHL games.
Oleksy logged two minutes of shorthanded ice time, and he had four hits and four blocked shots against the Panthers.
“It’s not easy,” says Oleksy. “I’m just surrounded by some great talent. In my game I try to keep it simple and just do the right things, and obviously with the forwards that we have, you get [the puck] to them and let them do their thing.”
Heating Up – In addition to Holtby, several other Capitals are riding hot streaks. Ovechkin has at least a point in five of his last six games, with four goals and 10 points during that stretch. He has seven goals and 17 points in his last 14 games.
Ribeiro has a goal in each of his last three games and he has registered at least a point in seven of his last eight games. He has eight goals and 20 points in his last 14 games and has yet to go more than one game without a point this season.
Eric Fehr has points in three straight games, with two goals and five points during that span. He is also a plus-6 in those three games. Fehr’s power-play goal against the Panthers is his first in almost two years, since March 9, 2011 vs. Edmonton.
Nicklas Backstrom has points in six of his last seven games, with one goal and nine points during that run. He has two goals and 18 points in his last 17 games.
Brouwer has six goals and 10 points in his last 10 games.
Wolski has two goals and four points in his last two games.
Streaking – In addition to their six-game winning streak against Southeast Division foes, the Caps have won three in a row overall and four straight on home ice.
Differential – For the first time this season, the Capitals have a positive number in the goal differential department. Washington is plus-3
Keeping It Even – The Capitals have outscored their opponents by a combined 17-5 at even-strength in their last six games.
Discipline – Tonight’s game marked the sixth straight contest in which Washington faced three or fewer penalty killing missions on the night. Washington is 9-3 in games in which it faces three or fewer penalty-killing situations this season and it is just 1-8-1 when faced with four or more shorthanded situations.
House of Horrors – Washington can’t be among Florida’s favorite places to visit over the last few seasons.
The Capitals have won seven straight games over the Panthers at Verizon Center, outscoring the Cats by a combined 31-7 in the process. The Caps have blanked the Cats in three of those seven games, with ex-Panther Tomas Vokoun blanking the Cats twice and Holtby doing so once.
The Caps have scored at least four goals against the Panthers in each of Florida’s last four visits to Verizon.
Remember When? – Panthers defenseman Nolan Yonkman was originally a Washington draft choice. One of four (count ‘em, four) second-round Caps picks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Yonkman was the fourth of those picks, and the 37th overall.
A big, strapping defenseman at 6-foot-6 and 247 pounds, Yonkman had difficulty staying healthy during most of his tenure in the Washington organization. He made his NHL debut as a 20-year-old in his first pro season of 2001-02, skating in a Jan. 145, 2002 game at Verizon Center against the Boston Bruins.
That game resulted in a 1-0 Washington win in overtime, and it was the game in which Caps coach Adam Oates recorded his 1,000th career assist. Yonkman skated 11 minutes for the Caps that night.
Yonkman played in 50 NHL games with the Caps, scoring his first NHL goal for Washington on April 6, 2002 against the Islanders’ Chris Osgood, five days after his 21st birthday.
The Caps bought out the final year of Yonkman’s contract in July, 2006 and he has toiled mainly in the AHL since. He has played 585 career AHL games.
Tonight, the 31-year-old Yonkman played in his 70th NHL game, and his first as a visitor at the barn in which he made his NHL debut more than a decade ago. He skated 19:03 against Washington on Thursday, the most he has ever logged in an NHL game. Yonkman was one of only two of the 18 Panthers’ skaters to come out of Thursday’s game without a minus next to his name.
By The Numbers -- Carlson got some rest tonight, skating just 16:49. It’s his lowest single-game total of the season and just the second time in 22 games he has logged less than 20 minutes … Ovechkin and Fehr tied for the team lead with four shots on goal each … Matt Hendricks led the Caps with six hits … Oleksy and Tomas Kundratek paced the Caps with four blocked shots each.
Stick tap to Carter Myers for the primary assist on several of the statistical notes contained within.
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