At first glance, Wednesday's game between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers had the feel of a preseason game. The Caps had clinched the Southeast Division, the Panthers had been eliminated from playoff contention and several of Washington's top forwards sat out. While one could not blame the Caps for coasting, they did anything but.
Mike Knuble, Jason Chimera, Sean Collins, Matt Hendricks and Alex Ovechkin scored to give the Caps a big 5-2 win over the Panthers.
Washington jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period and a 3-0 lead after two. Hendricks made it 4-0 on a dirty goal right in the crease that eluded Scott Clemmesen. Florida made it interesting with two late goals from David Booth and Mike Santorelli, but Ovechkin's empty net goal sealed the Capitals' East-leading 48th win of the season.
Semyon Varlamov made 31 saves in his first start since March 29 to earn his first win since February 20. With the victory, the Caps move four points ahead of the idle Philadelphia Flyers for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have one game in hand, but if the Capitals earn one point against the Panthers Saturday, they will clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.