Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 7-1 win over the Florida Panthers Thursday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: The Caps knocked starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom out of the game with two goals on their first two shots – one each by John Erskine and Wojtek Wolski – just 3:10 into the contest. The Caps greeted Panthers replacement Scott Clemmenssen with equal disdain, scoring two more goals – one each by John Carlson and Mike Ribeiro -- on their next six shots. Alex Ovechkin made it 5-0 with his ninth goal of the season and sixth on the power play. Eric Fehr kept the goals coming with his sixth of the season and first on the man-advantage. The Panthers ruined Braden Holtby’s shutout bid with 10:49 gone in the final period when Jack Skille threaded a shot inside the left post. But the Caps answered when Mathieu Perreault scored with 59 seconds remaining to end it.
What it means: The Caps improved to 10-11-1 with the win and moved two points ahead of the Panthers, who now reside alone in last place in the Eastern Conference.
Scary moment: Caps left wing Jason Chimera sent chills through the crowd when he lay face down at center ice after taking a brutal open-ice hit from Panthers forward Tyson Strachan midway through the second period. Chimera refused assistance as he made his way to the Caps locker room, then emerged to take a shift. There were concerns when Chimera again retreated to the locker room but he again returned and took a few more spirited shifts in the period. Strachan was given a 5-minute major for interference, along with a game misconduct, and likely will face an NHL hearing for the hit, which came after Chimera had released the puck.
Ole Oleksy: Rookie Steve Oleksy was a force in his second NHL game, delivering three glass-rattling hits, picking up his second career assist and saving a goal that squirted behind Braden Holtby in the closing seconds of the second period.
Injury update: While there is no new news on groin injuries to Mike Green and Brooks Laich, the Caps received some encouraging news on defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who has been cleared to play on Friday for the Hershey Bears after being sidelined nearly three months with a concussion. Meanwhile, forward Marcus Johansson is cleared for full contact after passing his neuropsych test on Tuesday. Johansson should only need a few more days of conditioning before returning to the lineup.
Look ahead: The Caps will practice Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, then head to Uniondale, N.Y. for Saturday’s game against the Islanders, their first of a back-to-back set that ends Sunday night at home against the Rangers.