For the first time this season, Tomas Vokoun found himself out-dueled by an opposing netminder. And for the first time this season, the Capitals scored less than two goals in a contest unable to solve a veteran netminder.
Nikolai Khabibulin, 38, made 34 saves including 19 in the third period as the Capitals tried and ultimately failed to erase the Oilers’ one goal lead on Thursday at Rexall Place.
Washington brought everything it could against Khabibulin, who stopped chances of all types rather shots in tight around the net, blasts from the point, to one-timers – including a stunning save on Dennis Wideman on the first power play of the third. The Capitals also had a pair of shots ring off the iron in the final frame.
“I think we have couple shots hit post. My shot hit the crossbar, Wides shoot at almost an empty net and he makes a great save,” Alex Ovechkin said. “He’s how I say, unbelievable goalie. He keep them in the game and they get the lead and they try to play more safely.”
It’s tough to blame Vokoun entirely on either of the power play goals the Oilers scored. On the play that led to the second, the 35-year-old was contending with Shawn Horcoff, who was doing a thorough job of blocking Vokoun’s view of the play when the puck jumped out to Jordan Eberle.
On the Oilers’ first tally of the night, Washington was playing down four on three and couldn’t prevent Eberle from threading a pass through the crease for an easy goal by Taylor Hall.
“You’ve got to be honest in your play and my guy is the one with the puck,” Vokoun explained. “If the puck goes across, you do the best you can to come across and make the stop. I’ve got to make sure I make the stop if Eberle shoots it.
“He one-times the pass and [Hall], I think he was lefty, so it was one-timer for him too,” Vokoun continued. “Our defensemen [Karl Alzner] was right there it just snuck through him. [Four on three] there’s going to be chances. Even though they’re young they’re going to make good plays.”