- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tomas Vokoun turned in a lot of spectacular performances during his four seasons with the Florida Panthers, often being just about the only reason they won on various nights. Vokoun was feeling it again Tuesday night in the Washington Capitals’ 4-0 rout of the Panthers to pass them for first place in the Southeast Division, his second shutout of his former team is as many chances this season.

“I thought Tomas has a great game. They threw a lot of pucks from all angles. He had to be sharp all the time, and plus we give up some breakaways,” coach Dale Hunter. “I thought Tomas was first star.”

Indeed Vokoun was, making 42 saves to turn in a goose egg for the third straight Caps-Panthers game he has played in. He insisted there wasn’t anything particularly special about putting on this show against the Panthers, but there might be some subconscious motivation to factor in.

“It’s a different team. There’s probably four guys since I played there. There are different coaches, different everything,” Vokoun said. “Some nights you have better game, some nights you don’t have so good. It’s nice to get a shutout, definitely. I won’t lie to you.

“But those two points were good. And I got a couple bounces; they miss a couple opportunities in the first period that could’ve went in. You need that as a goalie. You need a little bit luck on your side, too.”

The Panthers, who dropped to ninth in the Eastern Conference as the Caps reassumed the third seed seemingly reserved for the Southeast leader, did blow some chances. But when they put the puck on net (which they did a lot), Vokoun was more than steady.

In fact, he made it look easy.

“It never is. But with him, I think it’s positioning. When it’s on, it’s on. His rebound control was very good tonight,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “He was always square to the puck, square to the shooter. We love it, and we love it when he’s feeling it. He’s been doing it a lot for us lately.”

This was Vokoun’s fourth shutout of the season, and though it might not have been his best overall performance, it was exactly what the Caps needed.

But this was a tailor-made game for Vokoun, who got exactly what he needed when Mathieu Perreault scored 13 seconds in, and he got to coast with a lead for the rest of the way.

“It’s easier on goalie, especially when you get a couple goals. You can never relax, but you’re not as in pressure situation every save.” Vokoun said. “It was big. When we got up 3-0, even they got some power plays after that, you can just relax and play your game. [If] they score one goal, we still have two-goal lead.”

But Florida couldn’t crack Vokoun on this night, which was a perfect chance for him to take the Caps on his back like he did so many times with the Panthers.

And the veteran netminder understood just how important it was for him to do that.

“It was a huge game for us. If we lose the game we were three points behind them with they have one game in hand on us. So this way at least we’re in better situation,” he said. “Especially losing at home that would be really even more than the statistic it would be more confidence discouraging. Losing to them at home it would be tough.”



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