The Washington Times - October 11, 2011, 02:19PM

Before the Predators’ preseason game against the Capitals at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville coach Barry Trotz talked about goaltender Tomas Vokoun as someone who provides a “breath of fresh air” wherever he goes. In addition to being a savior for that expansion franchise, Trotz pointed out that even though English isn’t Vokoun’s first language, he never shied away from the recorders and microphones.

“A lot of times when you’re from a different country and you have a foreign accent or whatever, sometimes you say, ‘Well, maybe I won’t deal with the media as much’ and put yourself out there,” Trotz said. “But he didn’t have a problem doing that.”

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Washington media saw that first-hand Monday night after a game in which Vokoun allowed five goals on 28 shots – that’s an .821 save percentage. The Caps beat the Lightning 6-5 in a shootout, thanks in large part to the 35-year-old’s stops in overtime and shutout shootout.

It’s not uncommon for players to be absent in the locker room when it is opened to reporters. But Vokoun was there, answering questions for 10 minutes, and director of media relations Sergey Kocharov posted a note on Twitter that he didn’t even have to ask Vokoun to talk. “Standout guy. Pro all around,” he wrote.

Vokoun blamed himself for what he said should have been a Caps loss.

“It’s been a long, long time since I felt I played as bad as I did today,” Vokoun said. “Consequently the last bunch of years I played some unbelievable games and I lost them either 1-0 or 2-1. Today I should have lost, hands down. You probably lose 99 out of 100 games and I won it.”

Things did not go well, starting from the first shot Vokoun saw in a Caps uniform – which banked off Mike Green’s left skate and in just 2:22 in.

From there, it snowballed. Defenseman Bruno Gervais, making his season debut, took a sharp-angle shot from below the goal line that snuck in between Vokoun and the left post.

“Right from the start, it didn’t kind of go my way and it started being really choppy,” he said. “Once you get a little bit on the heels, you’re misreading the plays and it was just ugly, ugly, ugly game for me.”

Brett Clark’s goal at the 12:56 mark of the third period might have been the worst – another one from below the goal line that got between Vokoun’s skates and in.

“The worst part about it is I didn’t get any clean shots, and when I did get a shot it hit somebody or it trickled right to side I totally didn’t expect it,” Vokoun said. “What can I say? That’s not an excuse. It was a bad game. Obviously two or three soft goals.”

Vokoun lamented that unlike skaters, it’s hard for goalies to just “keep it simple.” The job of being a goaltender involves so much – and he admitted that he was thinking too much about the entire situation.

“It’s hard when you go first time in front of the home crowd – you want to do so well,” Vokoun said. “Things don’t go the way you like, and obviously after that it’s scrambly all the way through.”

Things weren’t great for Vokoun – until the overtime when he was brilliant. Tampa Bay had plenty of open ice, and guys like Vinny Lecavalier had point-blank chances from around the crease. Vokoun shined then, and again in the shootout.

“And that was the easiest part, believe it or not,” he said. “Because then you don’t have time to think and it’s kind of shot after shot. You know they’re going to get chances because it’s four-on-three and stuff like that.”

When the Caps’ skaters had their chances in the shootout, Matt Hendricks and Alexander Semin did their part to bail Vokoun out on a bad night.

Afterward, Vokoun said his teammates “literally won today without goaltending.”

“Credit to whole locker room. There wasn’t one passenger,” he said. “Thank them for the win.”