Newly acquired goaltender Tomas Vokoun was rock solid against his former team, leading the Caps to a 3-0 shutout (his first of the season) over the visiting, division rival Florida Panthers behind goals from Marcuss Johansson and Alex Semin in front of a large weeknight Verizon Center crowd. The Caps remain undefeated, moving to 5-0 on the season, their best regular season start in team history.
The NHL schedulers managed to give the Caps quite a schedule in the new 2011-12 season, with contests against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who eliminated the Caps from playoff contention last season; the hated Pittsburgh Penguins; and last night’s game against the Florida Panthers with whom the Capitals exchanged a number of players and controversies in the offseason, notably former Capital Matt Bradley claiming Alexander Semin doesn’t care enough.
The Capitals took the lead on a Marcus Johansson power play goal early in the first period. With three Florida defenders covering Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at the half boards, a pretty touch pass from Backstrom found Johansson alone on the goalline to stuff the puck home under the pads of rookie Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom.
Alex Semin gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead early in the third period on a snipe from inside the right faceoff circle with assists from Mike Knuble and Dennis Wideman, and Jason Chimera iced the victory with an empty net goal with under a minute left to play. Florida was kept off the board with some plucky play from offseason acquisition Tomas Vokoun, who stonewalled his former team, as well as some gritty defensive zone play and timely penalty kills.
Takeaways: the Caps looked utterly dominant throughout most of the game. Although that can be partially attributed to the Panthers playing in the second of back-to-back games, the Capitals put together a quietly solid game, controlling play in the offensive zone for large portions of each period. The Caps defense was notably improved over the previous four games, with better backchecks and defensive zone clears. The only real minus on the night was a number of failed breakaway and 2-on-1 attempts, but overall, this was the best game of the (albeit short) season.