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Ovechkin nets 2, Caps cruise past Panthers 4-0

Mathieu Perreault scored with 13 seconds elapsed, Alex Ovechkin had two goals and the Washington Capitals beat the Florida Panthers 4-0 Tuesday night to take over first place in the Southeast Division.

Former Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped 42 shots in his fourth shutout of the season, the second against Florida.

Jason Chimera contributed a goal and an assist to help the Capitals supplant the Panthers atop the division. Washington has 60 points and Florida is at 59 with a game in hand.

Winning the Southeast title is imperative to both teams, because the runner-up may not end up among the eight Eastern Conference teams that qualify for the playoffs.

With the win, the Capitals jumped from ninth place to the third seed. And now Florida is ninth, on the outside looking in.

The Panthers have given up 10 goals in their last two games.

Perreault set the tone in this showdown with his rapid-fire goal following the opening faceoff. Chimera was skating along the backboards when he sent a pass to Perreault that eluded two Panthers positioned in front of the net. Perreault then beat goaltender Scott Clemmensen with a shot from the left side.

It was quick, but not even close to the fastest goal in Capitals history — 8 seconds, a mark shared by Alexander Semin and Gaetan Duchesne.

Ovechkin added a power-play goal at 9:21 of the first period, and the onslaught continued after the first intermission.

Chimera got a short-handed goal by tapping in an easy rebound at 1:01 of the second period after Clemmensen left the puck sitting in the crease.

Ovechkin made it 4-0 at 11:47, firing a high-rising wrist shot that whisked past Clemmensen just inside the left post. It was his 22nd goal of the season and his fifth two-goal game, the first since Dec. 31.

Much earlier, Washington received a morale boost when center Brooks Laich suited up and joined the team on the ice. Laich was on crutches after hurting his left knee Sunday in a loss to Boston, but he showed no signs of the injury during his shifts against Florida.

NOTES: It was the fourth meeting this season between the teams. Each has won twice on home ice. ... Florida's Kris Versteeg played in his 300th career game. ... The Panthers lost a second straight game in regulation for only the second time this season. The other time was in October.