Capitals Score Early and Often in Rout

Alexander Semin, Kris Beech
Kris Beech, right, congratulates Alexander Semin on scoring the first goal of the game 1 minute 28 seconds into regulation. (Mitchell Layton - Getty Images)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 19, 2006

It had been more than three years since the Washington Capitals had a scoring outburst like the one they experienced in the first period of last night's game against the Florida Panthers.

Five goals, three on consecutive shots, all by different players, and like that, the Capitals were on their way to a 5-2 thumping of their Southeast Division rival before 10,125 at Verizon Center.

Alexander Semin netted his team-leading sixth goal just 88 seconds in. And the goals just kept coming for the Capitals, who met Coach Glen Hanlon's challenge of earning six standings points in the season's first five games.

"It was a great first period," Hanlon said. "We had our legs and we executed well."

Chris Clark, Jamie Heward, Kris Beech and Matt Bradley also tallied for the Capitals, who hadn't scored five goals in a period since a 5-1 win in Atlanta on Feb. 12, 2003. Goaltender Olie Kolzig turned aside 34 shots, and Jozef Stumpel and Nathan Horton each scored power-play goals for the Panthers.

Washington's blowout victory represented a reversal of fortune in this division rivalry. Last season, the Panthers rode the goaltending of Roberto Luongo to seven wins in eight games. But Luongo was traded to Vancouver in June.

Alexander Auld had been playing well as Luongo's replacement. But the Capitals needed only 12 shots and about 12 minutes to chase him from the net. He was replaced by 41-year-old Ed Belfour, who surrendered a goal to Bradley on the first shot he faced.

"I don't put any blame on the goalie," Panthers Coach Jacques Martin said. "We were making too many turnovers."

The Capitals, who received a standing ovation after the first period, won't have much time to savor their victory. They departed immediately afterward for Atlanta, where they will face the Thrashers tonight at Philips Arena. Atlanta has been off since beating the Capitals, 4-3, in overtime on Saturday.

Last night's game also marked the end of segment number one for Washington. Hanlon has divided the season into five-game stretches, with the goal being to earn six standings points every five games, which should put the Capitals (2-1-2) on pace to qualify for the playoffs.

When multiplied out, that's 96 points over 80 games, leaving two games to spare. The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning got into the playoffs last season as the Eastern Conference's seventh and eighth seeds with 93 and 92 points, respectively.

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