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March 07, 2013

ROLLED OUT OF THE CAPITAL: Washington Continues Capital Domination of Panthers with 7-1 Win ... Markstrom Pulled Early, Strachan Faces Shanahan

CAPITALS 7, PANTHERS 1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

WASHINGTON -- To avoid problems landing in the nation's capital, the Panthers left South Florida on their charter plane a few hours early on 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 before the midway point of 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. For us, we need to be firing on all cylinders to have success and that wasn't the case,''

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 straight in Washington and six straight to the Caps overall.

In the five losses in D.C. since last season, the Panthers have been outscored a whopping 23-3. Florida, shut out here three times since last season, have been outscored here 12-1 in the past few weeks alone.

"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.

The Capitals got the only two goals they would need 3:10 in.

Markstrom gave up his first goal 1:58 when John Erskine whipped a shot from inside the blueline that caught Markstrom's right armpit. When Markstrom adjusted, the puck sank into the back of the net.

Just over a minute later, Wojtek Wolski -- acquired by the Panthers for their playoff run last spring -- shoved a puck past Markstrom to make it 2-0.

"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 missle 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 after Strachan headed to the visitor's locker room for a 5-0 lead.

The Panthers defensive depth is tapped as they have already used 11 different defensemen this season. Brendon Nash, who played in two games with Montreal last season, has likely been summoned to Sunrise.

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.''

REALIGNMENT

The days of the Panthers and Capitals battling it out for the Southeast Division title are probably over -- since 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 (all north of New York City) teams.

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 new divisions -- the other three teams in the Southeast (Winnipeg, Washington and Carolina) are moving elsewhere -- go into effect next season 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.''

FRIDAY: JETS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560
The series: Jets lead 41-31-5
The game: Florida snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Jets on Tuesday. Winnipeg has spent the week in the Sunshine State and played Tampa Bay on Thursday. Florida is expected to have Jacob Markstrom back in net after he was pulled Thursday in Washington. Markstrom made 30 saves against the Jets.

STEPHEN WEISS: Wrist Surgery Only Option ... Realizes Sunday May Have Been Last Game with #FlaPanthers, Welcomes Return

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Panthers center Stephen Weiss said Wednesday morning the pain in his right wrist was so severe he wasn't helping himself or his team.

After consulting with specialists at the Cleveland Clinic on Monday, Weiss made the decision to have season-ending surgery.

"It doesn't make sense to keep playing like this,'' he said. "I have to get it fixed. .-.-. You can't fake your way through this league. It's too good.''

Weiss said the procedure, which he had once before at the end of the 2008-09 season, would be done in Cleveland on Tuesday by Dr. Thomas Graham. Weiss also had surgery on his left wrist in 2006. He has been told he would be able to shoot pucks again in three months.

Weiss said he has had pain in the wrist for over a year and had an MRI done last year that showed he had a problem. Weiss said not properly taping it during NHL lockout workouts and the repetitiveness of taking shot after shot likely contributed to the deterioration.

"This surgery was the last resort. I didn't want to have a second one done,'' said Weiss, who had just one goal off 19 shots in 17 games this season. Weiss averaged 2.12 shots per game and 23 goals per year over the past three seasons.

"As this season went on, it became evident I couldn't play the way I need to be effective and help the team win games and be the player I need to be. I need to get this thing fixed once and for all and get a fresh start with a healthy wrist when I'm ready to go again.''

Weiss is the first to admit this isn't the best time to have a wrist problem.

A pending free agent, Weiss may have played his final game with the Panthers after more than a decade with the team. Drafted fourth overall at the 2001 draft held at the Panthers' arena in Sunrise, Weiss is in his 11th season with Florida.

Weiss said "he wouldn't have written" that Sunday's forgettable loss to Carolina would be his last with the Panthers. Yet, that may have been it for Weiss. And it is something that has crossed his mind.

"It kind of burns at me that is how I could be going out,'' Weiss said. "But that's life sometimes. You have to deal with the cards you're dealt. This is not an easy decision for myself or the team, but it's something that needs to be done. If it is the last game, it's the last game. I just hope everyone understands why I made this decision. It's been a good ride.''

Weiss, who turns 30 next month, hasn't ruled out a return to the Panthers, saying "it would be awesome to finish my career here.''

The reality is Weiss' agent and the organization haven't spoken about a new deal and the Panthers will likely want to see how this surgery goes before a new long-term deal is talked about.

Weiss said he would welcome a return to the Panthers and said he hopes to chat with the team "in the not-too distant future.''

"I started my career here and you don't see that too often, guys staying for one team,'' Weiss said. "That would be great. But they have to want me back. If they do, those will be decisions I have to make at some point. I'm going to look at all the options and see what's best for me moving forward.''

Weiss said during the lockout he wouldn't negotiate with the Panthers during the season as he didn't want it to be a distraction. Even though that isn't a concern now, general manager Dale Tallon said there is no rush to get something done.

Weiss' contract, signed six years ago and worth $3.1 million per season, expires July 1.

"He couldn't perform up to his capabilities, in his opinion, and he wanted to get it fixed," Tallon said. "It was difficult for him and for all of us. Stephen cares and he feels badly about it, but he's got to do what's best for him, too. This is a big year for him as well."

And although the Panthers haven't fully moved on without Weiss, Mike Santorelli has already taken over his long-time locker stall inside the BB&T Center. Prime real estate, that.

Coincidence Santorelli scored his first goal of the season in Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Jets?

"Maybe it brought me a little luck,'' Santorelli said.

PHOTOS BY JOE RIMKUS JR./Miami Herald Staff

STEPHEN WEISS: Wrist Surgery Only Option ... Realizes Sunday May Have Been Last Game with #FlaPanthers, Welcomes Return

STEPHEN WEISS: Wrist Surgery Only Option ... Realizes Sunday May Have Been Last Game with #FlaPanthers, Welcomes Return

STEPHEN WEISS: Wrist Surgery Only Option ... Realizes Sunday May Have Been Last Game with #FlaPanthers, Welcomes Return