Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals

Caps pluggers salvage win despite Tomas Vokoun’s tough debut

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Tomas Vokoun earned a 6-5 shootout win in his Washington Capitals debut, but there’s no way he expected it to happen like it did.

Vokoun looked downright silly on at least three of the five goals he allowed while the Caps’ star trio of Alexander Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom combined for a -6 and zero points.

Instead, the Capitals’ lesser-known players saved the day. Jason Chimera came up the biggest (two goals), but supporting cast members such as Troy Brouwer, Matt Hendricks and Marcus Johansson were essential to that sloppy win. Instead of drawing even with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s star players, they ended up being the story of the game.

Following tonight’s logic, it only makes sense that Hendricks scored the shootout winner, then.

Vokoun’s ugly night

It’s fair to say that Vokoun at least partially redeemed his dreadful first night in overtime. He stopped five shots as the Lightning received ample power play time and applied considerable pressure on the beleaguered Caps goalie. He turned all of those shots aside and then defiantly shut down Tampa Bay’s two shootout attempts.

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source: APBoth coaches can’t be happy

This was just that kind of night: a sloppy, penalty-filled affair that should make both coaches furious. Bruce Boudreau’s face resembled a mood ring at times, especially after Vokoun allowed a fifth goal.

Guy Boucher cannot be too happy about his team’s performance, either. Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis were held pointless while Dwayne Roloson had hiccups of his own. The most worrisome part might be Tampa Bay’s defense, though. Roloson faced 43 shots in this game, bumping the team to 118 shots allowed in three games. That places them in last place in the NHL in this young season, which isn’t exactly a great formula for success when you have an ancient goalie in net.

Vokoun, Neuvirth and the goaltending elephant in the room

Vokoun’s struggles will probably capture the headlines tonight, though, especially considering the budding goalie controversy. Vokoun is known for being a slow starter, but that won’t slow down Michal Neuvirth’s proponents one bit.

Give both teams at least some credit, though: good teams find ways to squeeze points out of bad nights. All parties probably want this to be the exception rather than the rule, though – especially Vokoun (and really every star player involved).

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Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.

Outdoor game rumors: Jets host Oilers, Red Wings at Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings face off during the first period of the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.

A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.

Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.

(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)

Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.

The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.

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Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.

Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?

Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.