"The play of our special teams has been losing us games," Van Ryn said. "It was nice to win one that way."
The Panthers entered the game with the 29th-ranked power play in the NHL, and they had allowed three power-play goals in each of the last two games, losses at the New York Rangers and New Jersey.
"We needed to be better on the power play, and we were," coach Jacques Martin said. "Overall, I thought that the special teams were the difference in the hockey game."
Rookie Alexander Ovechkin scored both goals for Washington. The top pick in the 2004 draft, Ovechkin has a point in each of Washington's eight games, the longest scoring streak in the league.
"We're lucky to have him," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. "He's an incredible person. He's had a great start to his season and it continues for him."
Kolnik and Van Ryn scored in the second period when the Panthers broke a 1-1 tie and set a franchise record with 28 shots. Florida outshot Washington 49-31 overall.
"We didn't score a lot of goals, but our main focus has been to get more shots, said Florida captain Olli Jokinen, who assisted on Van Ryn's goal. "That's what's good about tonight. We had close to 50 shots, and that's a positive."
Roberto Luongo stopped 30 shots for Florida, 4-1 at home.
Olaf Kolzig made 46 saves for Washington.
"Ollie gave us an opportunity to win a game as he always does," Hanlon said. "But at the end of the night we didn't deserve to win the hockey game."
After Ovechkin gave Washington the lead with his fifth goal of the season, Stewart tied it with his first NHL goal in his second career game.
Stewart put in a loose puck in the crease after Jay Bouwmeester's wrist shot from the point was tipped and went through Kolzig's legs and off the post.
"It's a terrific feeling," said Stewart, recalled from Rochester of the AHL on Tuesday. "For me to be successful up here, I have to keep the pressure on in front of the net and be aggressive."
Kolnik gave Florida a 2-1 lead at 12:07 of the second period after blocking Jamie Heward's pass in the Washington zone with his skate as he fell down. Kolnik then got to his feet and fought off Heward to beat Kolzig with a wrist shot to the stick side.
"I was trying to put as much pressure on as I could," Kolnik said. "The puck came right between my legs. When I saw it, I wanted to put the puck on the net. I knew the goalie wouldn't be ready for a quick, early shot, so I kept it low and it went in."
Van Ryn completed the second-period scoring with a slap shot off the post from the top of the faceoff circle.
"We've been trying to have a shot mentality in our heads," Van Ryn said. "Tonight we got some pucks through. When you get the puck on net, good things happen."
Ovechkin pulled Washington to 3-2 at 17:21 of the third period when he streaked down the left side and flipped a shot that trickled in off Luongo's shoulder.
"We didn't have a good second period," Heward said. "We played well in the first period and in the third period, but we had a breakdown in the second and gave up too many shots."
- Florida's previous record for shots in a period was 26, done in the second period against Pittsburgh on Feb. 12, 2004. The 28 shots also set a Washington record for shots allowed. The previous mark was 27 against Pittsburgh in a 12-1 loss on March 15, 1975, in the Capitals' first NHL season.
- Florida C Chris Gratton was back in the lineup after missing three games because of a groin injury.
- Washington D Bryan Muir didn't travel with the team because of a groin injury. He hasn't played since Oct. 12.