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Capitals continue to dominate Panthers

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The Washington Capitals might start picking up the Florida Panthers at the airport.

The Capitals scored on their first shot, led 4-0 after eight minutes, and cruised to a 7-1 win against the Panthers on Thursday night, continuing their dominance over them at Verizon Center.

"The guys are playing better and good things are happening sometimes, but all in all, in the last three weeks we've had one bad game," Capitals coach Adam Oates said.

Washington has won three in a row, five of six and eight of 11 to climb the Southeast Division standings. Florida has lost four of five during a 3-6-4 slide that started with a 5-0 loss at Washington on Feb. 9.

The Panthers have been outscored 23-4 in their past five visits to Washington, and they have lost nine of 10 trips to the nation's capital since the 2009-10 season.

"I think they smell blood when we come in here," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "If they can get us early, things will start rolling."

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 29 saves but lost his bid for a NHL-leading fourth shutout midway through the third period.

Seven players scored for Washington. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro each had a goal and two assists.

"It just shows that everyone's contributing, everyone's chipping in here and there," Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said.

Washington's first shot of the game came from John Erskine, who cruised up to the Florida blue line and launched the puck at goalie Jacob Markstrom. The Panthers rookie opened his pads slightly, allowing the puck to sneak through 1:58 into the game.

"After that the goals just kept coming and coming," Erskine said. "It was fun to see some of the guys score like that."

It was 2-0 just 72 seconds later. From behind the goal line, Wojtek Wolski corralled a puck that deflected off the side of the net and snuck it in short side on Markstrom, who moved off the post anticipating a wraparound.

Markstrom was pulled without making a save, playing for the second time since being called back from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to replace Jose Theodore, out long-term with a groin injury.

"I don't know what to say. I couldn't stop the puck on the first two shots. It's no excuse for that. It was terrible," Markstrom said. "I feel like I let the team down. I am there to stop pucks and I didn't do that tonight. It's not good enough."

Replacement Scott Clemmensen didn't fare any better, allowing Washington to take a 3-0 lead 2:28 after he entered. Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff to the point, and John Carlson beat Clemmensen stick-side on the fourth shot he faced.

It took the Capitals two more shots to make it 4-0. Matt Hendricks knocked the puck loose behind the net to Ovechkin, who, with his back to the play, fed a backhand pass to Ribeiro in the slot at 8:10.

It was the second-fastest four-goal start in Capitals history.

Washington made it 5-0 on the first shift of a five-minute power play created by an interference penalty to Florida's Tyson Strachan.

Ribeiro moved the puck off the right-wing boards to Brouwer, whose straight-line pass found Ovechkin in the left circle, and his blast connected at 9:17. It was Ovechkin's ninth goal of the season, and he has 10 points in his past six games.

The collision between Strachan and Washington's Jason Chimera knocked Chimera from the game briefly. Strachan was given a major and a game misconduct.

Florida's Jack Skille spoiled Holtby's shutout bid when he took a pass from Shawn Matthias between the circles and beat the goalie in the top right corner at 10:49.

Third-period goals by Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perrault sandwiched Skille's score for the final margin.

Material from team media was used in this report

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