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WASHINGTON -- This had to be satisfying. Even though the Panthers engineered a significant overhaul of their roster from last season, this evenings shutout for Tomas Vokoun had to feel good. Earlier in the week, Vokoun calmly answered questions directed toward him asking if he felt any need for payback against his old club. He showed no animosity in telling the media that Florida tried to re-sign him, but his decision was to test the open market. His new employers in Washington have to be very pleased with the results from his first two weeks on the job.
I am sure that Vokoun has had much more demanding shutouts mixed in over the 45 he has now authored in the NHL. Florida did not have anywhere near the same spark they displayed last night in Tampa.
These things have a way of evening out over the course of the six-month long regular season, but the Caps were definitely on the positive side of the schedule this month. They havent been overworked with too many games, they have had ample time for practice, they havent played back-to-back nights, and they havent had to stray very far from home yet. That will change a bit next week.
From the opening minute of play we could tell the Caps had that extra jump. The line of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Brouwer helped to set the tempo with two quality scoring chances on their first shift.
Floridas goalie of the future, Jacob Markstrom, was pressured right off the bat in his duel against the Panthers goalie of the past. Vokoun could have put his feet up in the first 20 minutes as the Panthers only threw two shots at him.
The Capitals could have had a much larger lead than the 1-0 advantage they enjoyed after one period. Locker and I thought their fore-checking was relentless in the first half of the game; it really took whatever life the Panthers had out of them. The Hendricks, Halpern, and Perreault line worked their butts off tonight and had several chances to score. (Jeff won 8 of his 9 faceoffs as well)
Marcus Johansson cashed in the first goal of the game, scoring on an early power-play for Washington. Ovechkin drew two defenders toward himself, while Backstrom tapped a pass to Johansson along the goal-line. Mojo hammered the puck from a severe angle and it squirted through the 21-year old Markstrom into the net. The Caps Swedish duo would get the better of their good friend in goal on this night.
The Panthers showed much more life in the second period, but didnt dent Vokoun who proceeded to get stronger as the night went along. Mike Green led a very strong group of blue-liners tonight, all of whom played a sound game.
Still for as badly as the Caps were dominating this game, the score was just 1-0 after two periods. Sometimes that can come back to bite you, but Alex Semin took care of that.
It was a typical Semin laser-like wrist shot that beat Markstrom to the blocker side before the 3rd period was two minutes old. The packed house at Verizon Center could breathe a little easier.
Jason Chimera would salt this one away with an empty netter with only 44 seconds remaining to bring the score to a 3-0 final.
This Panthers team has an interesting new look to it. They just took two games from Tampa Bay, but ran out of steam tonight and that was apparent from the get-go.
Strong marks to Washington for not letting them claw back into a game in which the home team had complete control, even if the scoreboard said otherwise.
The Caps have won their first five outings to start a new season for the first time in their history, which began back in 1974. That unblemished record will be tested in the days ahead by two more quality opponents.
On Thursday night, the boys will be in Philadelphia to tangle with another squad that made significant roster moves in the summer. Then the weeks work will end with a visit from Detroit Saturday. The talented Red Wings and Flyers battling the Caps should make for great TV viewing.