Ben Raby, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Washington Capitals head coach Dale Hunter was non-committal Wednesday morning when asked if he intends to ride goalie Tomas Vokoun for the remainder of the season.
"I don't know about that," Hunter said. "I'm a tonight person myself; I worry about tonight. We made mistakes in front of him [in Monday's 5-2 loss in Los Angeles]… But he's a veteran. He'll be ready to go tonight."
Those words rang true at Verizon Center 10 hours later as Vokoun stopped all 30 shots he faced in the Capitals' 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Vokoun was starting his seventh straight game (two shy of his season-high nine straight starts from Oct. 10 - Nov. 1) and earned his second shutout of the season.
"There were no three-on-ones or breakaways or breakdowns," Vokoun said of the play in front of him. "It's more about playing the right way. Maybe they get a shot off a cycle or something, but you don't allow the Grade-A scoring chances or odd-man rushes. And usually when you do that, you have a pretty good chance to win."
It wasn't always pretty, but the Capitals will take the two points and look forward to Friday's tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Capitals now have won two of three meetings with the Penguins this season, with one more regular season game set for next Sunday in Pittsburgh.
With Wednesday's win, the Caps moved into an eighth-place tie with the Pens in the Eastern Conference, although Washington has played one less game.
The Capitals also pulled within four points of the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers.
"Every one [of the points] you lose at this time of the year, it gets harder and harder to scrape up those points," the Caps' Mike Knuble said. "These points are just going to be incredibly valuable down the line. Today was a good test."
Jason Chimera scored the lone goal of the contest, beating Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury blocker side with 4:35 to play in the opening period.
The goal came seconds after Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin turned the puck over just inside the Washington blue line. Joel Ward then chipped the puck into the neutral zone where it was collected by Jeff Halpern, who then fed Chimera in the slot, setting up the eventual game-winning tally.
"We had just changed and we caught them extending their shift," Chimera told the Capitals Radio Network, "and a lot of times when you're tired, you can't come back -- you're not physically able to come back… I don't think the defenseman saw me coming in behind him and then Halpy made a great play and it was nice to see it go in."
Chimera now has 14 goals on the season, three behind Alex Ovechkin for the team lead, and three shy of his personal career high set in 2005-06 with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Capitals improved to 10-1-1 when scoring first and 13-0-0 when leading after two periods.
Washington also has won five straight games at home and seven of their last eight at Verizon Center. The Caps 15-5-1 record on home ice is tops in the Eastern Conference (the Boston Bruins also have 31 points at home but have played two more games in their home arena).
Catch the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning Friday at 7 p.m. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online at WFED.com.
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