In each of Tomas Vokoun’s last three appearances in a game between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers, two as the goaltender for the former and one for the latter, he has shut out the opposing club.
“Tomas was sharp all night. We might have not had the lead after the first period if it wasn’t for Tomas,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “We gave up breakaways and he came up big for us in the first period. He played a great game and he was one of the main reasons why we won.”
The 35-year-old Czech has grown increasingly consistent since New Year’s and has recorded a pair of shutouts in his last three starts. Tuesday against the Panthers at Verizon Center, the Capitals provided early goal support — Mathieu Perreault scored 13 seconds into the contest and Alex Ovechkin made it 2-0 before 10 minutes had elapsed — that allowed Vokoun to settle into a rhythm as he was increasingly pressured by shots.
Vokoun was appreciative of the cushion.
“It’s easier on goalie, especially when you get a couple goals,” said Vokoun, who played four season for the Panthers before joining the Capitals this offseason. “You can never relax, but you’re not in pressure situation every save. It was big. When we got up 3-0, even they got some power plays after that, you can just relax and play your game. [If] they score one goal, we still have two-goal lead.”
Florida outshot the Capitals 42-24, including a staggering 32-14 edge in the final 40 minutes, but Vokoun rarely looked out of place or unprepared for a chance. He challenged shooters, controlled rebounds and found pucks through traffic.
“It’s easier game,” Vokoun said of seeing so many shots. “It depends on the game, too, but you’re in the game and you see the puck, you’re touching the puck and you don’t have as much time to stand there and think. It felt good and it was a pretty good game all around.”
The Capitals, while showing much more intensity than they did six days earlier when the teams met in Sunrise, Fla., did not suffer from any delusions that their outing was perfect. There were breakdowns and enough opportunities for the Panthers that Washington needed Vokoun to have a strong night. He came through.
“If you look at the game, you look at the first 30 minutes, Tomas makes a half-dozen excellent saves where the game could have been a lot closer than what it was,” Brooks Laich said. “So there are some areas of our game that we have to clean up. We did some good things, but the difference maker was Tomas.”
More on Capitals vs. Panthers