Reporting Sky Kerstein
The Caps came off a bad west coast swing and hosted a beat up Pittsburgh Penguins team, losers of five in a row, well make that six in a row as Tomas Vokoun had his best game of the season stopping all thirty Penguins shots on the way to his second shutout of the season and his 46th overall as the Caps beat the Penguins 1-0 for their seventh home win in their last eight home games.
“When we needed him [Vokoun] to make that great save he was there as well,” Capitals forward Matt Hendricks said on Vokoun. “Hats off to Tomas [Vokoun] he was outstanding.”
Vokoun made great save after great save, including a play late in the third period when he was laying on the ice and had to jump up to stop an Evgeni Malkin shot that would’ve gone in if it wasn’t for his extra effort.
“I was scrambling in the crease,” Vokoun said on the Malkin save. “I was fortunate enough to raise my body and it hit me in the chest. It was a good save at that point of time. They’re a tough team. They’re missing some good players, but they are still a good team. It’s not going to be easy any night against Pittsburgh.”
But even though Vokoun was “outstanding”, the Caps still needed a goal and Jason Chimera came to the rescue late in the first period as Joel Ward forced a neutral zone turnover that led to a 3 on 1 break where Jeff Halpern found an open Chimera right down the middle who beat Marc-Andre Fleury for the lone goal of the night. For Chimera that was his 14th goal of the season, now second on the team in goals, and his first since December 23rd.
“I think Hendy [Matt Hendricks], with the great fight, he sparked us big time.” Chimera said following the win. “It’s always important to get the first goal. These good teams play such a great defense so it’s hard to score. Halpy [Jeff Halpern] made a great play, but Hendy [Matt Hendricks] got it started for us with the fight.”
Matt Hendricks had a real solid game with three hits, two shots, a fight that he won against Craig Adams, but most importantly leading the fourth line to a big shift late in the third period where they controlled play in the Penguins end for well over a minute and got the fans on their feet and all the momentum right to the Caps side.
“To execute our game plan for 60 minutes and come out on top with a 1-0 win,” Hendricks said. “It was great, feels great and the boys are feeling good now.”
Troy Brouwer led the Caps with 11 hits, which ties Alex Ovechkin for a Capitals single game high this season.
“He’s [Brouwer] one of our top hitters, him and Ovi [Alex Ovechkin].” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said. “Again you know you have to play physical against their top lines and their D [defense], the D will turn it over if they get hit enough and with Brou [Brouwer] there leading the way, we had a lot of hits tonight again.”
For Pittsburgh (21-17-4, 46 points) this is their sixth loss in a row and the first time this season they’ve been shutout and most importantly the Capitals jumped them for eighth place in the conference right at the halfway point of the season.
This was the first of four in a row at home for the Capitals (22-17-2, 46 points) as they host the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday and look to avenge a 6-5 shootout loss to the Lightning in their only meeting so far this year, which was the Caps third game of the season.
“We have some trouble on the road,” Vokoun said. “So we gotta cash in at home.”
Check out what Dale Hunter, Tomas Vokoun, Matt Hendricks, Mike Knuble & Karl Alzner had to say following the win.
Locker Room Video
Dale Hunter Press Conference
1st 15:25 Chimera (14), Halpern (8), Ward (8)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Tomas Vokoun Postgame Audio
Matt Hendricks Postgame Audio
Mike Knuble Postgame Audio
Karl Alzner Postgame Audio