Moments after the Washington Capitals slammed the Florida Panthers, 12-2, Saturday night at MCI Center, Panthers owner Alan Cohen complained to reporters that the Capitals were running up the score with no regard for their opposition. Cohen, who was watching his club's broadcast in south Florida, was irate that the Capitals continued to score in the third period with the result already ensured.
"You can be sure that if we are ever able to get a 6-0 lead, the Panthers will act with more class than has been shown by the Capitals and their coach," Cohen told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I applaud their victory. They deserve every goal they got. Most of these Florida players will be around for a long time. It doesn't matter who wears a Washington uniform. We'll never forget."
The Capitals, who have earned points in 12 straight games and lead the Southeast Division, tied franchise records for goals and biggest margin of victory Saturday, and led 9-0 after two periods.
"I am sure he was just frustrated and was just blowing off some steam," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said of Cohen. "We were not trying to run up the score. If we were we would have done as the fans chanted -- scored one more goal and broken our franchise record. The Panthers are a good, young and up-and-coming team, and are poised for a playoff run this season. We did not try to disrespect them at all, and we look forward to a healthy and honest rivalry with these division opponents."
Winger Jaromir Jagr, who tied career and team records with seven points, took only three shifts in the third period and said he did not want to embarrass the Panthers.
"It's not easy to be down 10-0," Jagr said. "You have to respect the other team. I don't want to go out and score eight points."
Cohen was perturbed that star winger Peter Bondra scored twice in the third period, but Washington Coach Bruce Cassidy had few options. Defenseman Calle Johansson left the game in the second period with a minor back injury, forcing winger Alex Henry to play defense. Winger Steve Konowalchuk was ejected midway through the game for an incident with Florida's Brad Ference (Ference was also ejected) and Jagr and the coaches agreed there was no reason for him to pursue a record eighth point in the final period.
"Essentially, we were down to nine forwards in the third period and we rolled three lines," Cassidy said. "I can't control who scores and who doesn't. In the second period, they got upset over the score and rightfully so -- most teams do. There were some fights -- nothing too out of the ordinary -- and in the third period I thought both teams were just trying to get it over with. I didn't see any attempt to run up the score. I've got a lot of respect for [Florida Coach] Mike Keenan and his staff, and I wouldn't do that, but everyone is entitled to an opinion."
Keenan did not criticize Washington's play or coaching. "It was just one of those nights that you don't expect, but it happens in sports," said Keenan, one of Cassidy's coaching mentors dating from their time in the Chicago organization. However, some Panthers vented frustration after the loss.
"We handed it to them; they didn't earn it," Florida forward Ryan Johnson said.
Regardless of the reasons for the blowout, it certainly was timely for Washington. Jagr had produced only seven points in his previous 14 games, dropping to 32nd in the NHL scoring race entering Saturday's game; he stood 13th in the league with 43 points entering play Sunday night. Bondra, Sergei Gonchar and Kip Miller each had four points in the game and Dainius Zubrus produced his first two-goal game since Jan. 26.
"We played hard and we won a hockey game, end of story," General Manager George McPhee said. "Jagr got three shifts in the third period and whoever happened to be on the ice for us when we got a power play played on the power play. We've been on the other side of one of those games before, and it's just one game. It's over. In this league, that game already feels like a long time ago and we're focused on the New York Islanders."
Capitals Notes: Johansson has suffered from a lingering back problem but is expected to play tonight. "His back has bothered him from time to time and with it 6-0 we felt he should take the rest of the game off," McPhee said. "That's another example of our approach. We could have kept him in there and kept him going. But [the injury] does not appear to be serious and we expect him to play [tonight]." Johansson will be honored tonight for becoming the all-time franchise leader in games played (944), passing Kelly Miller for the record 10 days ago. . . . The Capitals and Islanders are the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. New York is on a 7-1-0-1 run, moving into playoff contention after a poor start.