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Vokoun's strong game huge in Caps' win

by Corey Masisak
PITTSBURGH -- Worrying about an NHL veteran goaltender with a resume like Tomas Vokoun’s after one game probably is a bad idea, but he didn't need long to put a sub-par debut with the Washington Capitals behind him.

Vokoun turned aside 39 of 41 shots Thursday to help the Capitals defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center. It was a big improvement from his first game in a Washington uniform, when he yielded five goals in a 6-5 shootout win Monday against Tampa Bay.

"After the last game I said I didn’t have a good game and the guys had an unbelievable game and pulled me through and won the game,” Vokoun said. "Today, hopefully, I helped hold them to stay in the game. This is what a team is all about. It is not always going to be perfect."

Added Nicklas Backstrom: “I think it was great. Obviously you want to start off the season the best way that you can, and I think he was a little disappointed with the first game, but he bounced back right away. He showed today I think that he is one of the best goaltenders in the League.”

The Penguins dominated the first period, outshooting the Capitals 12-3 and controlling the tempo of the game, basically for the entire 20 minutes. Vokoun allowed a goal on Pittsburgh’s first shot -- a one-timer from James Neal -- but recovered and made several important stops to keep the deficit at one.

"He was great," Capitals forward Mike Knuble said. "It is probably the best thing after his last outing to get out there and play in what I’d call a real tough building here. He was the difference for us. Even in the first period -- we finished 1-0 and could have been down three or four. He made some big saves in the third, too, after they gained some momentum and started to push back against us. He was a big factor tonight."

After a better second period from Washington, the Penguins regained control of the contest in the third. They peppered Vokoun with 18 shots, and eventually found an equalizer with 3:45 remaining to force overtime.

Still, Vokoun did enough on a night where the Penguins probably thought they could have scored on several other occasions. He might not have had the start he wanted he wanted with Washington, but this type of game against one of the team’s biggest rivals certainly should help Vokoun settle in with the Capitals.

"He was pretty good tonight," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They had an awful lot of shots, and an awful lot of close-in attempts and he was there for every single one except for two. We may not have had the territorial edge or what have you, but sometimes you need goalies to steal you a game and tonight Tomas stole us a game."

Added Karl Alzner: "Big-time from him -- obviously it was (39) saves, but there was some big saves in there, as well. He just kind of answered the bell there and some of his critics after the last game there. Everybody was pretty fired up for him."
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