SUNRISE, FLORIDA (TICKER) —A pair of unfamiliar faces produced a familiar result within the Southeast Division for the Washington Capitals.
Ciernik struck for his fifth goal of the season with 88 seconds left in the second period.
Jeff Halpern backhanded the puck from the left faceoff circle, but it hit goaltender Jani Hurme in the arm and bounced into the slot. Ciernik fired the rebound into the open net behind Hurme, who though he trapped the puck in his jersey.
“(Jaromir) Jagr’s line had the puck in their end for about a minute and a half, and they were dead,” Halpern said. “We got fresh legs out before they did. I don’t know if they changed or if they were the same tired guys, but we were able to take advantage of it.”
The goal capped a dominant 20 minutes by the Capitals, who outshot the Panthers, 14-0. It was the second time this season Florida was held without a shot in a period and the first time Washington held an opponent without a shot since February 24, 1994, also against the Panthers.
“Sometimes you give up one or two, but zero? We haven’t done it this year,” Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. “You’ve got to credit our forwards for cycling the puck down low. What happens in that case is (the Panthers) are so tired, they just want to get the puck out and get off.”
Halpern also scored for Washington, which improved to 12-3-1 against Southeast Division rivals and opened an eight-point lead over second-place Tampa Bay. The Capitals are unbeaten in the last five meetings with the Panthers (4-0-1).
“We mentioned at the start of the trip that we thought if we won three out of four, including the one against Tampa, we can really show our dominance in the division,” Cassidy said. “Monday (against Tampa Bay), that’s the big one for us. It’s a four-pointer.”
Making his first start in 13 games, Charpentier produced several key saves in the third for his first win since December 13. His biggest stops came midway through the period when he dived across the crease to deflect a slap shot by rookie defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, then sent another slapper by Bouwmeester just wide of the net.
Florida nearly tied it midway through the third period. Kristian Huselius batted a puck out of mid-air and into the net, but the goal immediately was waved off by referees Mike Hasenfratz and Don Koharski, who ruled Huselius’ stick was above the crossbar.
“It was instinct just to get the puck in,” Huselius said. “It was up to the referee.”
“I lost the puck when he lifted his hand in the air, I kind of lost it in his glove,” Charpentier said. “I just kind of froze. I was looking at the side and the ref waved it off. He looked pretty sure of himself. I was happy.”
Halpern put Washington ahead just over 3 1/2 minutes into the opening period. He collected a pass from Steve Konowalchuk at the edge of the crease and fought off defenseman Pavel Trnka before flipping the puck over Hurme’s shoulder.
Florida knotted it at 8:27 on Viktor Kozlov’s 16th goal. Marcus Nilson carried along the left boards and backhanded a pass to Kozlov, who redirected the puck on net. Charpentier got a piece of it, but it bounced over his right shoulder.
Hurme turned aside 28 shots for Florida, which has lost three straight and is 2-7-2-1 in the last 12 games.
“He was, I thought, for the most part very sharp,” Panthers coach Mike Keenan said of his goalie. “Two goals against may give you a reasonable opportunity to win.”
Valeri Bure, who missed 12 games earlier this season with a knee injury, left late in the first period after a knee-on-knee hit with Caps defenseman Brendan Witt. He was helped off the ice and did not return.