Capitals score early and often, beat Panthers 7-1
- Capitals center Mike Ribeiro (9), Alex Ovechkin (8), and defenseman John Erskine (4) celebrate Erskine's goal in the first period against the Florida Panthers on Thursday, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON (AP) - What a way to start: four goals in eight shots.
John Erskine, Wojtek Wolski, John Carlson and Mike Ribeiro all scored before the game was 8½ minutes old, and the Washington Capitals climbed out of a tie for last in the Eastern Conference by beating the Florida Panthers 7-1 Thursday night.
Florida's Jacob Markstrom allowed two goals on two shots and was pulled after 3 minutes, 10 seconds - the fastest yanking of an NHL goalie for something other than an injury in more than a year, according to STATS LLC. Markstrom's replacement, Scott Clemmensen, didn't fare much better, giving up two goals in the first six shots.
Alex Ovechkin had two assists during that early run and added a power-play goal later.
The Capitals, citing the Elias Sports Bureau, said the 8-minute, 10-second spree represented the second-fastest four goals to start a game in team history. Washington accumulated four within 6:49 of the opening faceoff against the Minnesota North Stars on Jan. 21, 1986.
Ten players each earned at least a point in Thursday's four-goal outburst. Late in the first period, Ribeiro pulled back at the end of a forward rush, content to perform the hockey equivalent of dribbling out the clock in basketball. The red-wearing fans saluted the home team with a standing ovation as the period expired.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 29 saves, letting in only Jack Skille's goal with 9:11 left in the game. By then, Washington already led 6-0. Holtby was making his 11th consecutive start, the longest streak for a Washington goalie since Olie Kolzig started 16 in a row in 2003.
The Capitals and the reigning Southeast Division champion Panthers entered tied for the fewest points in the East with 19. But Washington now has a season-high four-game home winning streak.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have won two of their last eight games as they deal with all sorts of injury problems, including to center Stephen Weiss - expected to miss the rest of the season because of a wrist surgery - and goalie Jose Theodore. As it is, Florida began the night having allowed an NHL-worst 83 goals in 23 games, a 3.61 average.
Markstrom was making only his fourth start of the season and 12th of his career.
He sure was shaky.
Erskine, a rugged blueliner not known for his scoring prowess (14 goals in 11 seasons), shot as he crossed the blue line not quite 2 minutes into the game, and the puck hit one of Markstrom's pads, then fluttered under his right arm.
Only 71 seconds later, Wolski collected a loose puck behind the net and stuffed it past Markstrom.
At the 5:38 mark, Carlson made it 3-0 with a slap shot from the blue line that Clemmensen didn't touch. And with 8:10 gone, Ribeiro gave himself a three-game goal streak by knocking in a pretty pass from Ovechkin.
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen used his timeout after that goal, giving his players an animated talking-to.
Just shy of 9 minutes into the second period, Florida's Tyson Strachan was given a 5-minute and game misconduct penalty for a hit that sent Capitals forward Jason Chimera heading to the locker room, although he did return to the ice. It took 20 seconds into the power play for Ovechkin to make it 5-0, diving to the ice to celebrate his ninth goal of the season.
Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perrault added third-period goals for Washington.
Notes: STATS LLC said Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin was pulled after 1:35 on Feb. 20, 2012, against the Senators. ... Clemmensen entered Florida's game at Carolina last Saturday after only 2:22, but that was because Theodore got hurt. ... Ovechkin had scored in one of Washington's previous eight games. ... Florida has lost its past seven games at Washington, getting outscored 31-7. ... The Capitals are 3-0 against Florida this season, part of a 6-2 mark against Southeast Division opponents; they're 4-9-1 against everyone else.
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