Washington added a rare insurance goal for its first three-goal lead of the season 11:55 into the middle stanza when a new-look third line managed to cash in after a strong shift. Eric Fehr worked the puck along the boards to Perreault, who sent the puck to Ward in the left circle. Ward stretched and fired a shot past a Panthers defender and beat Theodore blocker side to make it 3-0 and record his fifth goal of the season.
“I thought we came up short a few games where we [were] kind of up by two and can’t push for that third and let teams back in,” Ward said. “We just kind of kept building on” the initial lead.
Just a day earlier, General Manager George McPhee acknowledged that the team has struggled to close out its opponents. The luxury of a three-goal lead allows the Capitals to take some pressure off themselves and focus on continuing to execute properly rather than worrying about trying to force offensive plays.
Washington continued to play with confidence and flow in the third period as all four lines kept the momentum moving forward, dominating puck possession and not allowing the Panthers any opportunity to get back in the game.
“I really thought tonight we had a really good rhythm for the whole game,” Oates said. “We’ve had it at times, but tonight I felt comfortable just keep rolling [the lines] over.”
Ovechkin ripped a shot off a faceoff win by Mike Ribeiro 3:49 into the final frame for a 4-0 lead but the scoring didn’t end there. Just before the half-way point of the third, Perreault chased down a rebound from a shot by Jeff Schultz to record his first goal of the season and give the Capitals a 5-0 lead.
The blowout win may have been the type of victory the Capitals needed for a fresh start but the true test will lie in whether they can build off it during a three-game road trip this week.
“I think any win at this point is what we’re looking for. Anything less is unacceptable,” Holtby said. “We already gave ourselves a big enough hole with being complacent, and right now we’re not going to step off the gas the rest of the year.”