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Capitals' first-period blitz sinks Panthers

Oct 19, 2006 - 1:56 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- The Washington Capitals continue to struggle on the power play, but it didn't matter with the way they played at even strength.

The Capitals erupted for five first-period goals and Olaf Kolzig made 34 saves in a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.

Five different players scored in the opening period as the Capitals scored twice in 39 seconds and three times in 2:21 against their Southeast Division rival.

"It reinforces what were trying to accomplish here with this young team," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. "(Play aggressive) and continue on like a machine for the next 40 minutes and finish with a win"

The Capitals (2-1-2) went 0-for-5 on the power play, coming on the heels of a 1-for-9 effort Saturday night, dropping them to an abysmal 4-for-37 on the season with the man advantage.

It didn't matter the way the turnover-prone Panthers kept handing the puck over in their end in the opening period.

"I can't explain it. You cannot blame any one player or the goaltending, everyone had a part in this," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "Washington got a few turnovers and they converted them - bang, bang. It's a tough loss and tougher to come back from such a first-period deficit in this league."

Florida's carelessness with the puck was best exemplified by a pair of quick goals that broke open the game. With Washington ahead, 2-1, defenseman Jamie Heward intercepted a lazy clearing pass just inside the blue line and drilled a slap slot past goaltender Alex Auld for a 3-1 lead at 11:57.

Just 39 seconds later, Juraj Kolnik lost control of the puck in his own end to set up Kris Beech's tally. Beech skated in from the left and, using defenseman Steve Montador as a screen, wristed a shot into the net to make it 4-1 and end Auld's night.

Ed Belfour replaced him but the Capitals scored again less than two minutes later on Matt Bradley's unassisted tally for a 5-1 bulge with 5:42 left in the period.

Washington's Alexander Semin scored his team-leading sixth goal just 1:28 into the game, tapping a rebound into an open net for a 1-0 lead.

The Panthers' Jozef Stumpel tied it with a power-play goal at the 5:58 mark, but it was all Capitals from there.

"We were taking quality shots on goal and they just kept going in," Clark said. "Florida's starting goalie may have been off tonight, but again, we took quality shots and kept the pressure on."

The Panthers added a third-period power-play goal by Nathan Horton, but were otherwise stymied by Kolzig, who made several spectacular saves, particularly in the second period when the Capitals were outshot, 13-4.

"My team played well in front of me and I felt sharp, and I also got some good bounces that I handled," Kolzig said.

The Panthers (3-3-1) continued to stumble on the road, falling to 0-3-1 away from home and getting outscored 22-5.

The Capitals reversed a long record of futility against the Panthers, beating them for the first time in eight games at home dating to April 1, 2003. They went 0-7-1 against Florida last season, losing all four games at the Verizon Center.

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