Thursday, December 9, 2010 11:02 p.m.
CAPITALS PAGE CAPITALS VIDEOS
By Joe Beninati
Someone pulled the plug on the Caps power-play unit tonight, and in the first period his name was Tomas Vokoun. Did the Caps screen him enough? No. Did the Caps move him from side to side enough? No. But he was still a formidable stopper in the opening 20 minutes, and instead of his team being in a two or three-goal hole after one period, they were right in it and on the verge of the upset.
Semyon Varlamov performed admirably at the other end of the rink. He made two terrific stops on Steve Bernier and Stephen Weiss in the opening frame to deny the Panthers a shorthanded goal.
Amazingly, the Caps had five man-up chances in the first, and could not dent Vokoun and the Panther defense. Give credit to Mike Weaver, who performed very well at even strength against Alex Ovechkin and was a shot-blocking stalwart while shorthanded.
Vokoun made it look too easy at times, but that's his style. When he's "on," he appears very calm in goal and this was vintage Vokoun in a 36-save shutout.
If I were to break down the 0-for-8 power-play performance, my first point of reference would be that the Caps were too stagnant or stationary in their approach. They played like they were "stuck in the mud," which is unusual for a team that often makes the puck look like a pinball on the power play.
The second failure, if you will, was that there weren't enough point shots. A lot of that will fall on the shoulders of Mike Green and Ovechkin, who monopolize ice time at the blue line.
Lastly, it was as if the Caps forgot what made their offense a bit more successful back on Monday; they did not crowd the crease or drive to net very effectively. Give the Panthers credit again for "boxing out" well, but the home team didn't make their workload as tough as it could have been.
The Caps were one second away from getting out of the second period unscathed, but Steve Reinprecht created something out of nothing along the goal-line, and after two strong stops from Varlamov, Michael Frolik emerged to pot a rebound at 19:59.
There would be no rally in the third period tonight. It was the Capitals turn to parade to the penalty box and it would cost them.
Steve Bernier tapped in a loose puck at 8:10, just two seconds after a Panther power-play concluded, to build the lead to two.
Mike Santorelli continued to deliver for Florida when he deked around Varlamov to stash a true power-play goal at 17:26 of the third. Caps fans headed for the exits in a grumpy mood after that one.
Vokoun would get his shutout and the Panthers would taste victory in Washington thanks to their hard-working performance.
The losing skid stands at four games now for Washington, its longest since October 2009. Bruce Boudreau told reporters after the game that his team has adjustments to make at practice tomorrow. Those will undoubtedly begin with extra emphasis on the power-play unit.