WASHINGTON – Washington goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 33 saves while Nicklas Backstrom’s and Marcus Johansson’s first period goals held up as the Capitals defeated the Ottawa Senators, 2-1, on Saturday night in front of an announced 18,506 at Verizon Center.
Washington improved to 4-0-0 (eight points) while Ottawa fell to 1-4-0 (two points).
After a less-than-auspicious Capitals debut for Vokoun last Monday against Tampa Bay in which he surrendered five goals, Vokoun has allowed just three goals on 75 shots in the last two games against Pittsburgh and Ottawa. Against the Senators, Vokoun saved a combined 26 shots in the second and third periods.
After a goal by Senators center Peter Regin in the waning moments of the first period – a frame in which the Capitals dominated play – Vokoun withstood an energized Ottawa squad that had a number of quality chances in the final two frames. Ottawa was coming off a 7-1 loss Thursday night at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.
“Definitely made them believe they were in the game,” Vokoun said of Regin’s goal. “Obviously when it’s a one-goal game, anything can happen. I suspected it was going to be a really tough game.
“I’ve been on that side before, what they were going through,” said Vokoun of the Senators’ situation. “You know you’re coming back and you’re angry. The coaches are angry, they’re yelling at the players, so I think everybody comes out and [gives] their best effort. They played hard tonight.”
Vokoun came up with a save on Daniel Alfredsson with less than two minutes left to play in regulation. Alfredsson entered the Washington zone with the puck and shoveled it off to Jason Spezza on the right wing half-board. Spezza passed it right back to Alfredsson, who was streaking down the slot. Alfredsson put a shot on net at the goal mouth but was denied by Vokoun.
“I saw the pass coming across and I saw [Alfredsson] coming to the net so I just kind of slid over and he one-timed it and I was fortunate enough to get a piece of it with my pad,” said Vokoun. “I didn’t really see him even shoot it, it was so quick. I just made the right decision at the right time.”
The Capitals came out hard in the first period and it seemed as if Washington’s speed overwhelmed Ottawa at times during the opening frame. The Capitals’ scoring was kicked off on a power play goal by Backstrom with assists from Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble. “His game is setting guys up and moving pucks around,” Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said of Backstrom. “And when he can score, it’s a definite bonus.”
Johansson gave the Capitals a two-goal lead at the 12:01 mark of the first period with a wrap-around goal with the assists coming from Knuble and Dennis Wideman. “He’s pretty fast,” Boudreau said of Johansson. “If teams haven’t noticed, they will notice him. He’s got tremendous speed.”
The Capitals’ overall quality of play hasn’t been flawless during their 4-0 start, but the team is pleased to be undefeated at this stage of the season.
“We’re happy. A great start for us,” said Knuble. “We’ve got to be very happy being 4-0 at this point. I think it’s been a little bit ugly at times but the bottom line is you’re 4-0. I’d rather be 4-0 ugly than 0-4, trying to feel good about yourself.”