Caps Avert Disaster in Vokoun’s Debut

Tomas Vokoun’s first start in goal for the Washington Capitals didn’t go as planned. For only the second time in the last year, the crown jewel of the Capitals’ off-season surrendered five goals but held off a flurry of Tampa Bay chances in overtime to earn a 6-5 shootout win.

Vokoun started off on the wrong foot, with the Lightning scoring on two of their first four shots. Lightning forward Teddy Purcell banked a centering pass off Capitals defenseman Mike Green for a fluky goal to put the Lightning ahead 1-0.

Capitals C Marcus Johansson evened the score with a hard-nosed goal, but shortly after that newly-acquired Lightning defenseman Bruno Gervais banked a shot off Vokoun from a sharp angle to put the visitors ahead 2-1. While the first goal allowed was unlucky, it’s safe to say Vokoun would like to have a do-over on Gervais’ strike.

“If you asked Tomas (Vokoun), he’ll be the first one to tell you that’s probably not the way he wrote the script,” Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Before the intermission the Capitals would even the score. Dennis Wideman, one of the notable injured Capitals’ defensemen in last season’s semi-finals in which the Lightning swept the Capitals, beat Roloson thanks partly to the screen set by fourth-line forward Matt Hendricks.

But just under a minute into the second, Vokoun’s struggles continued as Dominic Moore beat him over the shoulder with a wrist shot to put the Lightning back ahead. Troy Brouwer then netted his first goal for the Capitals to knot the score at 3-3 on a deflection from a Jeff Schultz slapper.

Unlike last spring, the Capitals were relentless in their attempts to get traffic in front of Roloson.

Then again, much like last spring, the Lightning shut down the Capitals’ power play to keep the game in check in the second period. They killed off a Capitals’ five-on-three for over a minute then killed off a lengthy four-on-three later on in the middle frame. All said, the Capitals ended the night 0 for 7 on the power play.

Boudreau moved forward Alex Ovechkin off the power play point to begin the third period on the power play, which proved unsuccessful. As a whole, Ovechkin struggled to make a positive impact on the game, posting a -2 rating and firing just three shots on goal while failing to convert several chances.

However, the third line trio of Joel Ward, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera made yet another strong impression following a strong showing Saturday against Carolina. Chimera crashed the net and banged home a Laich rebound to put the Capitals ahead 4-3 for a short-lived lead in the third before Lightning F Nate Thompson tipped a deflection past Vokoun just 3:42 later.

“[We’re] just three guys working hard. We all really take pride in going against their number one line and playing really good defense,” Chimera said. “And mostly when you play good defense, it leads to good offense.”

Vokoun then allowed a brutal goal by any measure when Lightning defenseman Brett Clark flung a centering pass from behind the goal to nobody in particular, only to have it bank off Vokoun’s pads and in for a go-ahead goal.

But at 17:16 of the third Chimera saved Vokoun from an ugly headline by unleashing a nasty wrist shot over Roloson’s shoulder to force overtime.

“There were three fluky goals, I think, on Voks (Vokoun). I think for most of the game, we carried the play and we played a pretty solid game,” Chimera said. “We were down lots, but kept coming back, kept coming back. Nice to get the win, that’s for sure.”

Vokoun seemed to return to the form that garnered him a reputation as one of the best goalies in the league in overtime. The Capitals spent most of the overtime period down a man thanks to Alexander Semin’s hooking penalty and a too many men call (their second of the night) after that was killed.

Vokoun stood tall in denying C Steven Stamkos two great opportunities and turned aside all five shots he faced in overtime. He then denied both shot attempts in the shootout while Semin and Matt Hendricks scored for the home team to put the game away.

“(Vokoun) comes up and he makes those big saves and he makes the save in the shootout. It told me a lot about his character and it ends up as a positive thing even if he didn’t have a positive game for the most part,” Boudreau said.

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