WASHINGTON – Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped all 30 shots he faced against the Pittsburgh Penguins, leading the Capitals to a 1-0 victory Wednesday night over the Penguins before an announced 18,506 fans at Verizon Center.
Vokoun was coming off less than ideal outings in San Jose and Los Angeles, both of which saw him face a lot of shots as a part of losing efforts from the Capitals (22-17-2, 46 points). Vokoun stopped 34 of 38 shots against the Sharks and just 23 of 27 before being pulled against the Kings. Against Pittsburgh (21-17-4, 46 points), Vokoun became more involved with handling the puck outside of his crease and held off a Penguins team that out-shot his squad by nine shots.
“Tonight, he was very good,” Capitals head coach Dale Hunter said of Vokoun. “He was on. I liked his puck-handling, too, if you noticed it. He made a lot of good plays for [Washington's] D to get them out of trouble because [the Penguins are] a hard forechecking team. They come hard with two and sometimes three guys…so I thought he played well that way. And he made some big stops for us.”
Pittsburgh’s scoring chances against Vokoun were limited throughout the contest – the majority of Pittsburgh’s 30 shots were from the perimeter with no traffic in front – but Vokoun made a handful of difficult stops late in the third period, including one in particular. With a little more than two minutes left in regulation, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin streaked down the right wing to pick up a loose puck, only to shoot it into the chest of a sprawling Vokoun.
“I was scrambling in the crease,” Vokoun said of Malkin’s opportunity. “Then I saw him; he got the puck. He actually took a great shot. I was fortunate enough to kind of raise my body and hit me in the chest.”
Forward Jason Chimera scored the lone goal of the game at the 15:25 mark of the first period against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Capitals forward Joel Ward created a turnover in the Capitals’ zone that sprung Jeff Halpern and Chimera up the ice against Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek. Michalek committed to the puck-carrier Halpern, leading to a pass to a wide open Chimera, who potted his 14th goal of the year.
Chimera said his line caught the Penguins on a long shift when the goal was scored.
“I think Wardo made a great play stripping the puck and Halpy made a great pass. It’s just one of those things, it just turns out we were fresh coming off and they extended their shift a bit so we were fresh and we got a change in and that’s often how goals are scored, so it was nice. Great pass by Halpy and great to put in.”
Capitals defenseman and Czech native Tomas Kundratek made his NHL debut Wednesday night, playing alongside fellow Czech native Roman Hamrlik. Kundratek was drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round of the 2008 NHL draft and was traded to Washington in November.
Kundratek, who played in 21 games with Hershey since the trade, skated 11:09 against the Penguins. Kundratek minced no words in regards to his feelings on the day he made his NHL debut.
“It was best day of my life,” Kundratek said.