To avoid problems landing in the nation’s capital, the Panthers left South Florida on their charter plane a few hours early Wednesday.
On Thursday, they checked out of their game in Washington early as well.
Washington chased goalie Jacob Markstrom to the bench with two goals on two shots then kept the party going by beating down the Panthers 7-1 at Verizon Center.
The Panthers, who played their final game in Washington as a division rival for some time Thursday, found themselves down 4-0 in the first.
By the time Alex Ovechkin scored to make it 5-0 in the second, well, it meant little more than to pad his stats.
“You give up two goals on two shots,” said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, whose team’s 19 points are fewest in the entire league.
“I don’t like to leave anyone out to dry, but obviously I don’t think Jacob Markstrom was ready to play tonight and the ball started to roll.”
Said Markstrom: “I felt like I let the team down. I didn’t stop pucks. It wasn’t good enough.”
The Panthers are probably happy to get away from Washington when the league reconfigures its divisions next year. Florida has lost seven in a row in Washington and six in a row to the Caps overall.
“They’re a good team in their building,” said Jack Skille, who ended Braden Holtby’s shutout bid with 9:11 left. That made it only 6-1.
“I think they smell blood when we come in here and they can get a couple early,” Dineen said. “We can talk about pushback, but we got spanked 7-1. It’s unacceptable.”
Scott Clemmensen was brought in and didn’t fare much better. On Washington’s sixth shot, John Carlson fired a long-range missile that skipped though. Mike Ribeiro made it 4-0 two shots later.
The biggest news could come Friday when it will be determined whether the league takes disciplinary action against defenseman Tyson Strachan for his open-ice hit on Jason Chimura.
Chimura hit the ice hard after Strachan’s hit and stayed down on the ice before returning. Strachan was hit with a major penalty and an ejection. Ovechkin scored 20 seconds later.
The Panthers’ defensive depth is tapped as they have already used 11 different defensemen this season.
Strachan declined to comment after the game.
“I’ll have to take a good look at it,” Dineen said. “It’s a moot point whatever the coach says because that’s going to be handled on a different level. I have a strong amount of respect when the league makes those decisions. We’ll see how it plays out.”
The days of the Panthers and Capitals battling it out for the Southeast Division title are probably over — because this is the last season the two will share the same division at least for the next two years.
The NHLPA approved the NHL’s realignment plan, one that puts the Panthers in a new division with the Lightning and six other teams (all north of New York City).
Florida’s new division rivals: Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Boston, Toronto, Montreal and Detroit. With the realignment comes a playoff format change, with teams within the division playing each other in the postseason.
The other three teams in the Southeast (Winnipeg, Washington and Carolina) are moving elsewhere, with the setup being examined after two seasons.
“This is the hand we’ve been dealt, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Skille said. “This was the league’s choice, and we just have to win some games in that division. There’s a lot of Canadian people who live in Florida, so we’ll have the barn packed.”