Five Alive – For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Capitals are 5-0. On Tuesday night at Verizon Center, the Caps authored their best 60-minute outing of the young season and the result was a 3-0 triumph over the Florida Panthers.
Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped all 20 shots he faced to record the 45th shutout of his NHL career, doing so against his former team. His previous shutout came for Florida against the Capitals in the final game of the 2010-11 regular season on April 9.
Tonight’s win was the first for the Caps that came with a margin of more than a single goal this season. Including the end of the 2010-11 regular season, tonight’s victory ended a stretch of seven straight wins by a single goal for Washington.
With a newly cobbled and virtually overhauled lineup, the division rival Panthers came into town with an impressive 3-1 start of their own and on the heels of a 7-4 thumping of Tampa Bay in the Lightning’s home opener on Monday.
The Caps took advantage of Florida’s fatigue.
“They were tired,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Two very emotional games against their cross-[state] rival [Tampa Bay] and then had to fly here so we thought this was the perfect advantage for us. You know in the scheduling, I’m sure it’s probably going to reverse itself somewhere down the road but we got a break and if we don’t take advantage of the breaks then shame on us.”
Washington pounced on the Panthers early, forging a 1-0 lead in the game’s first five minutes and thoroughly stifling any semblance of a Panthers’ attack. Florida’s first shot on goal of the game came just shy of the 12 minute-mark of the first frame, and it was an Ed Jovanovski dump-in from 80 feet away.
The Panthers’ only other shot of the period was a 53-foot wrister from Marcel Goc with about two and a half minutes left in the stanza.
“We worked hard,” says Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann, “but only thing we had were chances from the side; it’s tough to score [from there]. They played really well defensively and clogged the middle. A good goalie like Tomas Vokoun can always stop those.”
The Caps were unable to add to their 1-0 lead until early in the third when Alexander Semin fired a shot that beat rookie goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
The Capitals have now won six of the last seven meetings between the two teams at Verizon Center, outscoring the Panthers by a combined 28-14 in the process. The lone Florida victory in that stretch was a 36-save shutout by Vokoun against the Caps on Dec. 9, 2010.
Tonight’s fifth straight win to start the season pushes the 1991-92 and 1997-98 Capitals out of the franchise’s record book. Both of those teams took four straight at season’s outset.
Doubting Tomas – Hard to believe that Caps fans were ragging on Vokoun about eight days ago. (Check Twitter during the Oct. 10 Tampa Bay game if you doubt me.) Since the start of the overtime session that night against the Lightning, Vokoun has now stopped 97 of the last 100 shots he has faced.
That’s quite good.
For the season, Vokoun is now 4-0 with a 1.94 GAA and a .935 save pct. That’s quite good, too.
Got His Mojo Working – If you added up the length of Marcus Johansson’s three goals this season, you’d likely get a negative figure. After tallying on wraparounds for his first two strikes of the season, Johansson scored his third tonight on the power play, once again scoring with his skates beneath the goal line. Johansson jimmied a shot through Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom on the power play to stake the Caps to a 1-0 lead just 4:24 into the first frame.
Including tonight’s strike, two of Johansson’s three tallies this season have been game-winners.
Economical Power – In their last three games, the Caps have had a total of five power play chances. They’ve managed one extra-man tally in each game, going 3-for-5 and having the man-advantage for a combined span of just 7:26 in the three games.
Tonight’s game marks the third time in five games in which Washington’s game-winning goal came on the power play.
Hard Wall – Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik blocked three shots tonight, all of them in the first period. He is tied for second in the NHL with 19 blocked shots. Only Tampa Bay’s Brett Clark (24) has more blocked shots than Hamrlik. Clark has played one more game than has the Caps’ defenseman.
Still Streaking – Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman picked up an assist on Semin’s goal in the third period, moving the blueliner’s scoring streak to five straight games. Wideman’s career best run is a seven-game spree.
Back On Top – Johansson’s goal moved him into a tie for the team lead with Jason Chimera with three. But by game’s end, Chimera had regained the top spot on the team ledger. He floated a shot from neutral ice into an unmanned Florida net in the game’s final minute to close out the scoring with his fourth goal in the team’s five games.
Making His Mark – Markstrom performed quite well in his maiden NHL start tonight. He kept the Cats close and gave them a chance to win, but the Panthers were never able to muster much of an offensive burst.
Markstrom finished the night with 29 stops on the 31 shots he faced.
“He had a good, solid game for us,” says Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. “[He] gave us a chance to win. Not the way you want your debut to go but certainly happy that he got his first NHL [start] and he worked as hard as he could. He didn’t get a heck of a lot of support.
By The Numbers – The Caps are 4-0-0 in their first four home games for the first time in franchise history … Hamrilk led the Caps with 21:56 in ice time. No Washington forward had more than Alex Ovechkin’s 17:35 … Matt Hendricks was a beast all over the ice on Tuesday, and he led all skaters on both sides with six hits in just 11:16 of work … Hamrlik and Wideman each had three blocked shots on the night to pace the Caps … Jeff Halpern won eight of nine draws (89%).
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3 - 0 WSH