SUNRISE, Fla. – With Alex Ovechkin out, the rest of the Washington Capitals knew they needed to step up. Against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, the Capitals proved they could.
Brooks Laich scored twice and five other Washington players had goals to lift the short-handed Capitals to a 7-3 win over the Panthers.
Nicklas Backstrom, Eric Fehr, Brendan Morrison, Jason Chimera and Alexander Semin each scored for the Capitals, who beat Florida for the sixth consecutive time to sweep the season series.
The Capitals were playing without Ovechkin, suspended two games for a hit on Chicago’s Brian Campbell. It was the fourth time that Ovechkin has been sidelined for a game against Florida this season. He missed a home-and-home series in November because of an upper-body injury and was suspended when the Capitals faced Florida on Dec. 3.
“It’s nice that everyone contributes when (Ovechkin’s) not in there,” Chimera said. “That’s important down the stretch in case someone big like that goes out. It’s nice to know we can score goals without him.”
Ovechkin will also miss Thursday’s game at Carolina.
Steven Reinprecht and Kamil Kreps got goals for the Panthers. Michal Repik also added a late Florida goal with 1:33 left in the game.
Jose Theodore stopped 34 shots for the Capitals, while Florida’s Tomas Vokoun made 16 saves before he was replaced in the second period. Scott Clemmensen finished the game in goal for the Panthers, stopping 16 shots.
“We talked about it before the game, just try to get pucks to the net and work these guys down low,” Morrison said. “Vokoun will probably tell you he didn’t play his best game. We did a good job getting in front.”
Laich made it 7-2 when he scored at 12:25 in the third period. He chased Vokoun with his power-play goal at 14:06 in the second period, but Kreps scored just 22 seconds later to make it 5-2.
The Capitals answered 90 seconds after Kreps’ goal, when Backstrom scored at 15:58 in the second to stretch Washington’s lead to 6-2.
Morrison gave the Capitals a 3-1 lead early in the second, when he scored 49 seconds into the period. Washington pushed it to 4-1 at 10:30 of the second on Fehr’s goal as he took a pass from Morrison and put the puck past Vokoun for his 19th goal of the season.
The Capitals went up 2-0 on Chimera’s goal at 15:32 in the first. Vokoun stopped the initial shot, but Chimera came charging toward the net and put in the rebound.
Florida responded with Reinprecht’s goal at 18:19 in the first. Reinprecht scored with a shot from the left circle that beat Theodore on his glove side to make it 2-1.
Semin opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 5:46 in the first period. Positioned near the left side of the crease, Semin tipped in the puck to put the Capitals up 1-0. It was his 32nd goal of the season.
“I thought we were pretty dominant tonight from start to finish,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It goes to show that when your best player gets down that the guys are rallying around him. It’s almost like we’re showing you that he didn’t deserve to be suspended but we’ll carry on anyway.”
NOTES: Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said RW Nathan Horton (fractured tibia) might return this week. Horton has resumed skating with the team. … Florida was opening a four-game homestand Tuesday night. The Panthers will face Phoenix, Buffalo and Tampa Bay in Sunrise before starting their next road trip.