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On a night when Roman Hamrlik became his home countrys NHL elder statesman, it was one of his Czech mates who stole the show. Tomas Vokoun was the Number One Star of the Game, and one gigantic save off Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson late in regulation cemented that honor.
Vokoun denied Alfredsson from close range after he was set up beautifully by Jason Spezza. When Tomas is at his best he is reading the plays well, diagnosing them quickly in his mind, and shuffling into good position. He made a great read on that play to preserve a 2-1 Washington win.
The Caps had the upper hand early in this game, battling a Senators squad that has been having difficulty keeping its opponent off the board. Washington had two goals to celebrate in the first 12 minutes of the contest.
The first was a conventional 5-on-4 power-play goal, something that had eluded the Caps prior to tonight. The goal-scorer was Nicklas Backstrom, the play-maker was Alex Semin. Semin showed tremendous patience, vision, and awareness to find Backstrom alone on the weak side of the Ottawa defense. Once the perfect feed was made, Backstrom pounded the puck past Alex Auld, the towering netminder for the Sens.
Marcus Johansson displayed his skating speed to create a two-goal advantage. Johansson used his wheels to burn wide and then sweep behind the net, finally tucking the puck past Auld who appeared to be waiting for him at the post along with defender Filip Kuba.
At that moment it looked like the Caps were going to dismantle the Senators, but Ottawa hung tough. New Coach Paul MacLean watched his team claw back to within one before the first period expired. Peter Regin pounced on a loose puck and zipped it into the top corner from an extreme angle while Vokoun was down and out and Dennis Wideman was hurrying to protect the open net.
No one would have blamed you if, at that time, you thought this would be a high-scoring game. As it turned out, that would be the end of the scoring for the night.
There were more than a few good chances for more goals over the final 40 minutes
but both teams anchored down defensively and both Auld and Vokoun were buttoned up tight.
Vokoun challenged the shooters well this evening. Rarely, if at all, was he caught deep in his crease. He effectively cut down angles and made sure that pucks hit him softly.
Milan Michalek threatened him on semi-breakaway only to see Tomas slither across the crease to cover the far post.
The save of the game though was the one on Alfredsson while the Senators had their goalie pulled and a 6-on-5 advantage, the same Alfredsson who has feasted upon the Capitals for many years.
For the 1st time since 1997, a 4-0 start for the home team looks great in the early standings, but you can get the sense the Caps feel like there is much room for improvement. The first period tonight was a strong one, but they did not sustain that energy and effort level throughout.
A great week of hockey is ahead for Washington. The new-look Florida Panthers are in town Tuesday, then the Caps will visit their friends in Philly Thursday, before hosting Detroit here Saturday. We will have you covered for all of that action on Comcast Sportsnet and CSNWashington.com.