- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

OTTAWA — Tomas Vokoun couldn’t be held responsible for a goal drought of 132 minutes, 48 seconds that the Washington Capitals were mired in dating to Saturday night. Yet in allowing four goals on 11 shots Wednesday night, he became the culprit for the 5-2 loss at the Ottawa Senators, at least in the eyes of Dale Hunter.

Tomas would like a few of them back. He wasn’t as sharp as he should’ve been and it was in the back of our net,” the Caps’ coach said. “We were playing well and it’s one of these things where you get deflated. … We outchanced them, but we need our goaltending better and Tomas wasn’t sharp tonight.”

Most of Hunter’s comments criticizing his No. 1 goaltender — or at least presumed No. 1 goaltender — came without any reporter mentioning Vokoun’s name. The Caps reasoned that this defeat was the result of a poor start, and Hunter pegged that on Vokoun not being good enough.

The Senators’ first goal came as Erik Karlsson was left wide open. The second goal came when Milan Michalek spun Dennis Wideman inside out and undressed him on a one-on-one move.

“Just can’t get off to a bad start like that,” Hunter said. “If somebody’s not playing as well as they should, you have to block more shots and cover up for him more.”

Vokoun was not requested to talk by media members, but his agent, Allan Walsh, pointed out that his client’s had a 1.92 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in his previous 13 starts.

“I’m not going to comment directly on what someone may have said after a game,” Walsh said in a text message. “I will point out though that hockey’s great coaches throughout history never resorted to publicly singling out a particular player, blaming him for a loss. Where I come from, you win as a team and lose as a team. The oldest, most tired excuse in the book is to blame the goalie.”

Wideman’s defensive breakdown and a couple bad penalties are tough to hang on Vokoun. Backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth came in and stopped all 14 shots he faced to settle things down, but his view on the game didn’t seem in line with Hunter‘s.

“I don’t think it was Vokey’s fault. That’s the way it goes sometimes,” Neuvirth said. “Two tough goals, and they didn’t have a lot of shots.”

Among Neuvirth, Matt Hendricks, Troy Brouwer and Mathieu Perreault, none mentioned Vokoun as a reason for the loss. They all singled out giving up the first goal, of course, but that has been a common pattern for this team, especially on the road.

Asked if the poor start was a reflection on Vokoun, Hunter again did not hold back.

“We need some big stops early, and that’s part of the game. Tonight we played a good, solid road game and we lose,” he said. “Goaltending is a big part of the game. And we need good goaltending.”