Capitals Score 5 in 1st, Beat Panthers

Wednesday, October 18th 2006, 10:15 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A rare offensive outburst by the Washington Capitals enabled Olie Kolzig to savor a relatively stress-free night in goal.

It was an uncommon feeling, one that Kolzig certainly would love to experience far more often.

Alexander Semin had a goal and an assist during Washington's five-goal first period, and the Capitals cruised past the Florida Panthers 5-2 Wednesday night.

Kolzig finished with 34 saves, but his job became vastly easier after the Capitals scored five goals in the opening 15 minutes to take a 5-1 lead.

``We took advantage of our chances in the first period and created some breathing room,'' Kolzig said. ``As a goalie, that's what you like to see, because if you make a mistake it's still a three-goal lead.''

The Capitals, who hadn't scored more than five goals in any of their first four games, received points from eight different players. The last time Washington scored five goals in a period was on Feb. 12, 2003, in a 5-1 win at Atlanta.

``It was a great first period. We had our legs and executed well,'' Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. ``When it got to 5-1, I was hoping it was going to get to 6-1, to be honest with you.''

It's hard to fault Hanlon for being greedy, but no further offense was needed from Washington after the opening 20 minutes.

Jamie Heward and Matt Bradley scored unassisted goals and Richard Zednik had two assists for the Capitals, who were outshot 36-26.

Florida goaltender Alex Auld was removed at 12:36 after yielding four goals on 12 shots. But Panthers coach Jacques Martin cited the players in front of Auld for those unsightly numbers.

``We didn't play a bad period, but when we made turnovers they seemed to capitalize,'' Martin said. ``I don't put any blame on the goalie. I think the goalies have been making some saves to hide the fact that we were making too many turnovers.''

Stumpel and Nathan Horton scored power-play goals for the Panthers, who were 7-0-1 against the Capitals last season.

``We knew they were going to come out and work hard. We learned that last year,'' Florida center Chris Gratton said. ``They just dominated the first period. A couple of turnovers, and they buried their chances.''

Washington's first two shots produced the game's first goal with 1:28 elapsed. After Zednik charged down the right side and took a shot that trickled behind Auld into the crease, Semin tapped in the rebound for his team-high sixth goal.

Stumpel tied it less than 5 minutes later, scoring his first goal of the season on Florida's initial power-play opportunity.

Washington then scored four goals in just over 7 minutes. Chris Clark started the onslaught at 7:08, and Heward made it 3-1 by scoring on a straight-on slap shot from about 5 feet inside the blue line.

Auld's night ended 39 seconds later, when Kris Beech scored off a pass from Semin.

``The first period, right through the lineup, everybody _ including myself _ just wasn't good enough,'' Auld said.

Backup goalie Ed Belfour fared no better at the outset, yielding a goal to Bradley within 2 minutes of his entering the game.

Although the Capitals rarely have the opportunity to protect a four-goal cushion, they did so masterfully in the second period, killing a 5-on-3 power play and keeping Florida scoreless despite being outshot 13-4.

``They came at us pretty hard in the second period. They had their chances to make it close,'' Kolzig said.

Horton scored with 11:48 left off a pass from Stumpel.

Notes: The Capitals assigned D John Erskine to Hershey Bears of the AHL. ... Florida has at least one PP goal in five straight games. The Panthers came in ranked second in the NHL in PP percentage (28.6). ... Semin (6-2-8) took over the team scoring lead from Clark (2-5-7). ... Washington's Alex Ovechkin was held without a point for the first time since the opener.