‘Vokoun Keeps the Puck Out’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
The Florida Panthers came to town last night with a losing record but a hot goalie. The latter proved to be the difference. Florida netminder Tomas Vokoun turned away all 36 shots to earn a shutout on the way to a 3-0 victory over the listless Caps last night at Verizon Center. The Caps dropped their fourth straight contest, going 0-8 on the power play. It was the first time the Panthers had won a game in regulation in nearly three weeks.
Washington dominated play in the first period, outshooting Florida 18-6. The Caps had five straight power plays in the first period – including nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 action – but were unable to slip one past Vokoun. As well as Vokoun played, however, the Capitals’ power play lacked energy, with players content to pass the puck around the perimeter and very little presence in front of the net. The best opportunity came when Alex Ovechkin took a shot from 30 feet and beat Vokoun cleanly on the glove side, only to watch the puck bounce harmlessly off the post. Failing to take advantage of opportunities doomed the Caps. “We had, I think, 20 minutes of power play” said Ovechkin. “We didn’t play how we have to play. We played so casual and you can see the results.”
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
The Caps woes on the man advantage continued into the second period. The Panthers took two more minor penalties, but the Caps again failed to convert. Vokoun seemed to be wearing down the Caps, and Washington played without urgency. By the middle of the period, the ice tilted in favor of Florida. “We survived that first period with hard work and a little bit of luck and it gave us momentum,” said Vokoun. “After that I think we played pretty well.”
Over the course of any hockey game, the penalties tend to even out. Sure enough, five of the last six infractions of the game went against the Capitals. Late in the second period the Panthers got a 5-on-3 power play of their own; the Caps killed off both penalties, and the home crowd came alive in appreciation of the Caps’ effort. But the Panthers maintained their aggressive play in the Washington zone. On a scrum in front of the Caps net, Michael Frolik was able to lift a loose puck over Varlamov to break the tie with one second left in the period. “I just go to the net and shoot it,” said Frolik. “For sure it was an important goal. I think that helped us.”
The cat was out of the bag by the time the third period started. Many fans had gone home and the Caps came out flat. Vokoun was still making saves, and the Caps were unable to generate quality scoring chances. Steve Bernier made it 2-0 for the Panthers on an easy tap into an open goal after a broken play. Mike Santorelli put the game away with a nifty move around Varlamov on the power play with two and a half minutes remaining to make it 3-0. In striking contrast to the Caps’ long-distance shots, all three of the Panthers’ goals came from within six feet of the net.
“At the end of the first period, we started to try to do things as individuals instead of collectively. When that happens, it’s tough,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “You have to get production out of your best players and it’s not happening for us right now.”
The Caps next game is at home against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. The puck drops at 7pm at Verizon Center. Also, if you live in the Reston area, don’t miss Peter Bondra on Sunday morning at the Reston Skating Pavilion.