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10/18/2011
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Caps stay perfect by blanking Panthers 3-0

Tuesday, 10.18.2011 / 9:32 PM

Tomas Vokoun was clearly fired up to face his former team Tuesday night.

Vokoun, who signed with the Washington Capitals during the offseason, blanked the Florida Panthers with a 20-save performance in a 3-0 victory at the Verizon Center. With the victory, the Caps improved to 5-0-0 on the season, the best start in franchise history.
 
Marcus Johansson, Alexander Semin and Jason Chimera scored for the Capitals, who led just 1-0 after 40 minutes.

Washington and Detroit are the only NHL teams to win all their games thus far -- the teams meet Saturday at the Verizon Center. The Capitals' four-game winning streak at home to start the season is also a club record.

"Come April or May, I won't be able to sit here and say, 'Hey, we were 5-0, isn't that great?'" Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's not going to hold a lot of weight."

Vokoun was rarely tested, but he couldn't afford a slip-up in a tightly played defensive struggle. It was the 45th NHL shutout for the 35-year-old goalie, who spent the previous four seasons with Florida.

Pressed into extensive action while Michal Neuvirth works to return from a foot injury, Vokoun improved to 4-0-0 this season.

"It's my old team, so you want to win and you want to play good," Vokoun said. "It wasn't like I was looking at the game and saying, 'I've got to win.' I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy, but when you win you're happy every time. I was as happy when we beat Ottawa or Pittsburgh."

Vokoun wasn't the only player matched up against his old team. Florida's Matt Bradley and Tomas Fleischmann are former Capitals, as is goaltender Jose Theodore, who watched from the bench for the first time this season.

Rookie goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 29 shots in his first NHL start, but was beaten by Johansson in the first period and by Semin at 1:49 of the third period. Chimera scored into an empty net.

"We worked hard, but the only thing we had were chances from the side," Fleischmann said. "A good goalie like Vokoun can always stop those."

That was more than enough to provide the Capitals with their first 5-0-0 start. Each of their previous four games was decided by one goal, and three of those went to overtime.

Washington outshot Florida 11-2 in the first period and took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Johansson, whose shot from the right side slipped through Markstrom's pads. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin earned assists.

The Capitals took the game's first nine shots before the Panthers finally tested Vokoun at 11:40 of the period on a blast from the blue line by Ed Jovanovski before a line change.

A few minutes later, Washington held the NHL's top-ranked, power-play unit, which scored five times Monday night in Tampa Bay, without a shot while killing an interference penalty against Roman Hamrlik.

Midway through the second period, Capitals defenseman Mike Green took a cross-ice pass and fired a shot from the top of the left circle that Markstrom deflected after sliding quickly across the crease. Five minutes later, Markstrom denied Chimera on a breakaway. Florida took the puck the other way, and Vokoun kicked aside a shot by a charging David Booth.

Semin all but clinched it with a goal from the bottom of the right circle early in the final period. He scored after taking a lead pass from Mike Knuble.

"We knew that they were pretty hot coming in so we had to be up to the task," Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman said.

The Capitals will look to make it six in a row Thursday night when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.
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