WASHINGTON – Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 20 saves and shut out his former team as a part of Washington’s 3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers – a result which clinched a franchise-best fifth consecutive victory to begin a season for the Capitals – in front of an announced 18,506 fans Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
The Capitals improved to 10 points in the standings, while Panthers fell to 3-2-0 (six points).
Vokoun played the four previous seasons in Florida, but the Panthers never finished better than third place in the Southeast Division in any of those seasons despite Vokoun’s success in net – the lowest save percentage Vokoun posted as a Panther was .919 in the 2007-‘08 season.
But Vokoun was impressed with the improvements he saw in his former club. The Panthers this summer added skilled forwards Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, along with defenseman Brian Campbell, among others.
“You can tell they have a whole lot more skill. Pretty quick team,” Vokoun said. “Their forwards … they’re miles in front what we had last year.
“Good for them. I don’t hold any grudges. I had a good time. They treated me well. This is the hockey life. You change teams. Obviously, you always want to play good against your old team.”
Vokoun has been in net for four of the Capitals’ five victories to begin the season, allowing a combined eight goals – five of which came in his first start. But Vokoun says the Capitals’ ultimate success will be decided months from now, not in October.
“Obviously for us, we said that all along, our season is going to get measured on playoff, either success or not,” Vokoun said. “We want to win every game. As a player, you go to every game, you want to win. Obviously, it’s nice to sit at 5-0.”
Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau echoed the sentiments of his starting goaltender.
“Quite frankly, when it comes to April and May, I’m not going to be able to sit here and say, ‘Hey, we were 5-0. We got that record. Isn’t that great?’ It’s not going to really hold a lot of weight. So it’s nice, but it’s just the process of getting to where we want to get.”
Tuesday night’s victory against the Panthers saw the Capitals dominate play in the first period – Washington out-shot Florida 11-2 in the frame. The Capitals went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a power play goal by Marcus Johansson, who shot from along the goal line and close to Florida goalie Jacob Markstrom’s left post. It was Johansson’s third goal of the season. “He hasn’t gotten too many on the power play from that spot,” Boudreau said.
Florida was coming off two victories against Tampa Bay – one of which was Monday night on the road. The Panthers were slow to adjust to the pace of play, but picked up their energy level in the second and third periods, pumping a combined 18 shots on Vokoun in the final two frames.
“We knew they were tired,” Boudreau said. “They played two very emotional games against their cross-town rival and had to fly here. We thought this was the perfect advantage for us, in the scheduling.”
The Capitals added two goals in the third period – a wicked wrist shot by Alexander Semin and an empty netter by Jason Chimera – to put the game away. The goal was Chimera’s team-leading fourth. Despite the quality play by a number of players – namely Semin, who was effective in the defensive zone, Boudreau didn’t single any one player out for playing particularly well.
“I think we’ve spent way too much time worrying about individuals in the years here,” Boudreau said. “And now it’s worrying about, let’s see how the team does. And it’s all about the group, as far as I’m concerned.”