Former Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun will start for the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Islanders.
Vokoun will start in place of Marc-Andre Fleury who has allowed 14 goals in the past three games. The best-of-seven series is even at two games apiece.
“We brought Tomas Vokoun in to play big games for us and to be a goaltender we could count on to go in and play big games,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told reporters in Pittsburgh. “He's done that this year for us and he has been very good against the Islanders in the three games he's played against the Islanders. We're getting a guy who's real capable at going in and has been a great goalie for us.”
Vokoun signed a two-year deal with the Penguins last offseason to serve as Fleury’s backup. The move to Pittsburgh came after a one-year stint in Washington during which Vokoun went 25-17-2 with a 2.51 goals-against-average and .917 save percentage.
A groin injury last March ended Vokoun’s season prematurely and the veteran never appeared in a Stanley Cup Playoff game with the Capitals. Vokoun’s start Thursday will be his first in the NHL postseason since April 20, 2007 when he and the Nashville Predators were eliminated in the Western Conference Quarterfinals by the San Jose Sharks.
Vokoun, 36, went 13-4-0 during the regular-season with Pittsburgh with a 2.45 goals-against-average and .919 save percentage. He was nearly perfect against the Islanders with a 3-0-0 record, 0.90 GAA, .970 SV% and a shutout.
The Penguins are just the latest team to turn to their No.2 goalie this postseason (some by choice, some by necessity), joining the Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild.
Islanders backup Kevin Poulin made a cameo appearance in Game 1 after the Penguins beat No.1 Evgeni Nabokov four times on 15 shots. Nabokov has started every game since.
In Montreal Wednesday, the Canadiens announced that Carey Price is day-to-day with a lower body injury. Price appeared to have injured himself in the final seconds of regulation of Montreal’s 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday. The injury led to backup goalie Peter Budaj starting overtime in place of Price and just 2:32 into the extra period, Ottawa’s Kyle Turris netted the game-winning goal. The Senators lead the series 3-1.
In the Western Conference, Roberto Luongo started Games 1 and 2 for the Canucks, before Corey Schneider started Games 3 and 4 against the San Jose Sharks. Ultimately it barely mattered who the Canucks started in goal, as Vancouver struggled at the offensive end in a four-game sweep against the Sharks. San Jose outscored Vancouver 15-8 in earning the first sweep in Sharks franchise history.
Also in the Western Conference, the Wild may have the toughest road ahead as they trail the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 and are now down to the No.3 goalie on their depth chart.
Starting goalie Niklas Backstrom suffered a lower-body injury in warm-ups prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals and has not played since.
Backstrom’s injury led to backup Josh Harding starting the first four games of the series for Minnesota, but Harding was forced to leave Game 4 with a lower-body injury of his own.
Third-string goalie Darcy Kuempner, a rookie with one career NHL win, replaced Harding and played the final two periods of Minnesota’s 3-0 Game 4 loss against Chicago Tuesday.
VEZINA FINALISTS ANNOUNCED:
Speaking of goalies, the NHL announced Wednesday that Sergei Bobrovski of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks have been named finalists for the 2013 Vezina Trophy.
The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,” as voted by the general managers of the 30 NHL clubs.
Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy last season and is looking to become the first repeat winner since Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils won the award in 2006-07 and 2007-08.