Toppling The Cats From The Catbird’s Seat – Ex-Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun has started two of the Capitals’ four games against his former employers this season, and he has been perfect in both, Tonight, Vokoun stopped all 42 Florida shots fired his way to record his fourth shutout this season and the 48th of his NHL career.
The Caps skated off with a 4-0 win and moved from ninth to third place in the Eastern Conference standings in the process. Washington now leads Florida by a single point in the Southeast Division standings, although the Cats do hold a game in hand.
Washington treated this one like a playoff game, and it showed from the opening shift. Mathieu Perreault staked the Caps to a 1-0 lead just 13 seconds after the opening puck drop, and Vokoun made sure that was all the offense Washington would require.
“I think guys were really ready,” says Caps left wing Jason Chimera. “You could see the intensity in guys’ eyes.”
“We jumped on them early,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter. “It changed the game a bit when we got two quick goals. They had to play a different game and it ended up at our advantage. We knew what was on the line tonight. We’re battling with Florida. Every two points means a lot. ”
The Caps added another in the first and two in the second to provide the largest winning margin of Hunter’s 31-game tenure behind the Washington bench.
“We don’t want to be a bubble team and just sit there,” says Vokoun. “It’s not going to be easy, I mean every game is going to be tough. We definitely want to win our division and that is what we set our goal as.”
Catch 22 – Vokoun earned his 22nd victory of the season tonight, doing so against the club that employed him for each of the previous four seasons.
Vokoun needed just 37 starts this season to achieve those 22 victories. Last season, he earned his 22nd win in his 57th start of the season.
Mr. Zero – Vokoun has pitched a shutout in each of the last three Caps-Cats games in which he has played. In addition to his two shutouts against the Panthers for the Capitals this season, Vokoun also blanked the Capitals as a member of the Panthers on April 9, 2011 in his swan song in a Florida sweater.
Special Delivery – The Caps have been much better at home than on the road in terms of special teams this season, and tonight was no exception.
Washington scored on its lone power play chance of the night. Needing just 34 seconds of extra-man time for Ovechkin to notch his ninth power play goal of the season, two more than he had in 2010-11.
The Capitals also killed off all four Florida power plays on the night, and Washington even managed to score a shorthanded goal, its first on home ice this season and its first at Verizon Center since Boyd Gordon netted one on March 13, 2011 against Chicago.
Washington’s 24.4% power play success rate on home ice is the second best rate in the league. The Capitals have killed off 87.1% of the opposition’s power play chances on home ice, the fifth best mark in the circuit.
Short Stuff – Jason Chimera’s second-period shorthanded goal was his second short-handed strike of the season, and the Capitals’ second short-handed goal of the season. He supplied the game-winning short-handed goal in Washington’s 3-1 win over the Devils in New Jersey on Nov. 11, 2011.
Quick Strike – Perreault’s goal was the Caps’ fastest from the start of any game this season, supplanting Ovechkin’s goal at 1:11 of the first period in a 3-1 victory over Calgary on Jan. 3.
Perreault’s goal also provided a slight sense of déjà vu. The Caps’ center scored the first goal of his NHL career on Nov. 7, 2009 against Clemmensen and the Panthers at the same end of the ice in a 7-4 Washington win.
“It was the five-hole, too, if I remember,” says Perrreault. “It’s the same guy. It was a great start for us. We needed that start and we rolled from there.”
Powering Up – Ovechkin’s power play goal was Washington’s first since Jan. 18 in Montreal when Ovechkin also scored on the power play in a 3-0 Capitals win. The goal ended an 0-for-19 power play dry spell for Washington.
Only three different players have scored power play goals for the Capitals over the last 60 days, a span of 25 games. During that stretch, Ovechkin has tallied seven of his none power play goals on the season. Troy Brouwer has had three and Dennis Wideman one power play goal in those last 25 games.
The last time a player other than those three scored with the man-advantage for Washington was on Dec. 9 against Toronto. Wideman had two and Nicklas Backstrom and Laich each had one that night as the Caps used those four power-play goals to take a 4-2 decision from the Maple Leafs.
Light Night For Laich – Capitals center Brooks Laich left Sunday’s game with Boston in the second period after taking a hit from Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenburg behind the B’s net. Laich hobbled off and did not return.
Laich also did not practice on Monday, leading to speculation that he might miss a game or two because of a knee or leg injury sustained on the hit.
That was not the case. Laich suited up and played on the fourth line, skating only about half (9:28) of his usual amount of ice time (19:13).
Not Up In Here – Although Panthers’ goaltender Scott Clemmensen defeated the Caps twice earlier this season in Florida, the Caps have had his number at Verizon Center.
Clemmensen is now 1-6 in nine career appearances (eight starts) in Washington with a 3.77 GAA and an .860 save pct.
Shutdown – Florida has now suffered consecutive regulation losses for just the second time this season. The Cats dropped a 3-0 decision to the Caps at Verizon Center on Oct. 18 followed by a home ice loss to the Buffalo Sabres by an identical score two nights later.
Prior to tonight’s whitewashing in Washington, the Panthers absorbed a 6-3 setback to the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Saturday.
The Panthers have yet to win more than three consecutive games this season, but they also have yet to go as many as three consecutive games without recording a point.
By The Numbers –Roman Hamrlik’s 22:26 in ice time paced the Capitals. It’s the third time this season Hamrlik has led the Caps in ice time and the first since Oct. 18, also against Florida … John Carlson led the Caps with 4:19 in shorthanded ice time … Chimera (eight) and Ovechkin (five) combined to record more than half of Washington’s 24 shots on goal for the evening. Matt Hendricks (three) was the only other Capital with more than one … The Capitals are 17-0-0 when leading after two periods this season.