WASHINGTON - This time, it was a complete victory. The Washington Capitals were as advertised Tuesday night, coming away with a 3-0 win over the reworked Florida Panthers to go 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. Alexander Semin led the charge with a goal and an assist, while Tomas Vokoun made 20 saves for the shutout in front of a raucous, sold out crowd. This game was particularly pleasing because DC managed to play a full, mistake free, 60 minute game for the first time all season. With their win, Washington holds on to the top spot in both the Eastern Conference and the Southeast Division with ten points in five games.
The hosts came out fast for the second game in a row, drawing an early man advantage three and a half minutes in. Washington made no chance with their man advantage, as Marcus Johansson netted from below the circles to open the scoring. The Caps continued to carry play as the opening frame continued, out-shooting their foes 9-0 at one point and relentlessly attacking Florida's rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom. Unfortunately, Washington could not widen their advantage despite the early pressure, and gave up a power play with a little less than five minutes remaining in the frame. The Caps' penalty killers put on a clinic, not even giving Florida a sniff, and the opening period came to a close following a dominant performance from the home side.
As awful as the Panthers were to start the first period, they were the exact opposite to start the middle frame. Collecting possession early, the visitors set up a solid forecheck and forced Tomas Vokoun in to a few early saves that the goaltender had little problem with. Florida continued to carry play a bit as the period continued, but again could not get anything through the Caps' defense and Vokoun. Slowly, the Caps began to take the momentum back again, getting a forecheck of their own going and getting a lot of shots on Markstrom, trying to rattle him.
The young Swedish netminder continued to stand tall as the middle frame progressed, making a few nice saves in particular on Nicklas Backstrom. DC continued to press in the later stages of the period, setting up one dominant offensive zone shift after another, Markstrom continued to stand on his head, making several remarkable saves to keep Washington's lead at one. With less than a minute left in the period, however, Mike Green was brutally slashed after a rush up ice and headed to the locker room. The period ended with DC still holding a 1-0 lead.
With Mike Green back on the bench to open the third period, the Capitals started the frame hot, finally managing to extend their lead when Alexander Semin waltzed down the wing and ripped a shot over Markstrom's shoulder to make it 2-0 with a little less then two minutes elapsed. DC continued to impress with their cycle play down low, establishing great offensive pressure and forcing more acrobatic stops from Markstrom. The hosts would not relent despite the fact that they extended their lead, creating chance after chance.
Inside of ten minutes remaining, the game settled into a bit of back and forth, with both teams getting shots through but neither getting the great chances that characterized the earlier stages of the game. But with 5:27 left, Roman Hamrlik took an ill-advised penalty for interference, forcing the Caps to a late shorthanded situation. DC's clinical penalty kill rose to occasion magnificently, keeping the Panthers not only from drawing within one but also from getting any momentum through offensive pressure. Jason Chimera was able to close the game out with a empty netter, and the Caps sealed their 5-0 start.
Tomas Vokoun is very, very good. Moving from side to side effortlessly. Great rebound control. Smart plays with the puck. DC's new netminder made 20 saves in the game, his first goose egg as a Cap, and has grabbed the number one role by the horns. Bring on Bryzgalov.
A great game from Alexander Semin. The maligned Russian winger played great on both sides of the puck tonight, and was a catalyst when the Caps needed him to be. I must say, I have been very impressed with the way Sasha has played this year in pretty much every game. Think he's in a contract year?
As good as Semin was, Ovechkin has got to start scoring some goals. That's one in five games, which means Ovechkin is on pace to score less than his did last year. No bueno. I don't know what's wrong, but I am getting really tired of waiting for one of the best players in the world to start actually playing like one of the best players in the world.
The Caps will skate tomorrow at 11:30 AM before they head up to Philly for a meeting with the revamped Flyers Thursday night. That game is scheduled for 7 PM.