WASHINGTON -- The Capitals may be off to one of their worst starts in years, but they still remember how to beat the Panthers at home.
Washington, last in the NHL after winning just two of its first 11 games, continued its domination of the Panthers at Verizon Center with a 5-0 victory Saturday night.
The Capitals snapped a three-game losing streak by running out to a three-goal lead by the second period and not looking back. The biggest cheer of the night came when Mathieu Perreault scored with 10:32 left.
That fifth goal gave fans in attendance free chicken wings at a local sports bar. The chant of “we want wings!’’ started soon after Alex Ovechkin made it 4-0.
The way the Panthers played Saturday, there was little doubt the Capitals would deliver. Florida, ending a four-game road trip, simply couldn’t match the intensity of a very desperate Capitals team.
“We have to play better than that, no doubt,’’ defenseman Brian Campbell said.
“They were obviously a desperate team, but at least we could have made a game out of it. The frustrating part is we didn’t give ourselves a chance, and we’ve done that too many times this season. We knew they would come out and needed the points as bad as we did. We needed to match them. We didn’t.’’
Kevin Dineen, 0-4 at Verizon Center as coach of the Panthers, wouldn’t use the road as an excuse, although he said you could tell his team was at the end of a trip.
“It sure looked like that and sometimes your mind can tell you that,’’ Dineen said. “We played a tired game. Whether we are or not is a moot point. We had a hockey game to play. Certainly we didn’t have the energy to give ourselves a chance to win.’’
Florida ended up going a respectable 2-1-1 on this four-game road trip — although the finale will leave a bad taste as the Panthers have been just brutal in Washington lately.
The Panthers have not only lost six in a row at Verizon Center but have been outscored 24-6 in those losses. And, unbelievably, Florida has been shut out in three of the past four games in Washington.
Florida heads home after getting wins in Buffalo and Philadelphia as well as an overtime point in Winnipeg. The Panthers play their next four in Sunrise — including Tuesday’s rematch with the Capitals.
“You don’t like to end it like this because it’s a sour note,’’ Dineen said. “We got outworked.’’
Washington, a most fragile bunch after Thursday’s meltdown against the Penguins, didn’t come out flying but was able to get a 1-0 lead when John Carlson picked off a Jarred Smithson clearing pass and fired toward the net.
Troy Brouwer was in front of Jose Theodore and put his stick on the shot, putting it into the back of the net with 2:15 left in the first.
The Capitals scoring first wasn’t too big of a deal as the Panthers had come from behind in the past few games. Washington, after all, was 0-4 after scoring first. Well, make that 1-4 now.
Washington scored twice in the second period to take a 3-0 lead into the second break.
Brouwer got his second of the night on a power-play chance when goalie Braden Holtby slid a long pass across ice. Bouwer got in front of Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky, sending a wrist shot top shelf on Theodore.
Later in the period, Florida again failed to clear a puck in its zone and Joel Ward snapped one from the slot on the Capitals’ 13th shot of the night.
Florida has yet to come back from anything bigger than a one-goal hole this season and wouldn’t overtake the Caps on Saturday.
Ovechkin made it 4-0 early in the third period by scoring off a faceoff win. The Panthers then helped give away quite a few wings as Perreault scored midway through the third.
“We needed to make this a great road trip and not just an average one,’’ Campbell said. “It’s frustrating.’
• Dineen missed the morning skate Saturday as he took a puck off his right leg in Friday’s practice and wasn’t able to run the workout. Assistant coaches Craig Ramsay and Gord Murphy took control of the practice as Dineen stayed back at the team hotel.
Dineen worked Saturday’s game although he had a pronounced limp and used the shaft of a hockey stick to help balance himself and take the weight off the leg while standing on the bench. Dineen refused to identify the player who nailed him with a shot.
Ramsay got hit in the head by a puck while on the bench during a game in Ottawa earlier this season.
• Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov needed treatment after hurting an ankle just before the end of the second period.
Kulikov returned to the game after limping off and played six shifts in the third period.