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Vokoun sensational as Panthers beat Capitals 2-1 in shootout

WASHINGTON - One thing went through Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun's mind as he traded save after save with Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig in a shootout that went on and on and on Wednesday night.

"Eventually," Vokoun said, "it's going to end." That it did. Stephen Weiss put a backhander past Kolzig in the 11th round, and Vokoun then stopped Brian Pothier's wrist shot, helping the Panthers beat the Capitals 2-1 for their season-high fourth straight victory.

"I was relieved when I stopped that shot," Vokoun said.

The shootout, which ended 4-3, was the longest in Panthers history and improved the team to 3-0 this season in a tiebreaking format Washington star Alex Ovechkin called "a lottery." The Capitals hadn't been involved in a shootout since March 15, 2007, and they went 1-11 last season.

"Coaches love them when they're winning," said Capitals interim coach Bruce Boudreau, 2-1-1 since replacing the fired Glen Hanlon last week, "and absolutely hate them when they lose."

Vokoun blocked Ovechkin's wrist shot in the second round of the shootout and also made a nice save on him with 12.1 seconds left in overtime.

Indeed, Vokoun and his teammates managed to keep Washington scoreless for a 4-on-3 power play over the last 1:59 of overtime. Florida held Ovechkin without a point all game, ending his season-best nine-game scoring streak, including when Vokoun stopped a backhander after the Russian slipped behind the defence and came in for a 1-on-1 opportunity with under two minutes left in regulation.

"To be able to keep those guys - Ovechkin - off the scoreboard was a huge job, especially in the overtime," said Florida's Jacques Martin, who broke a franchise record with his 84th victory as the team's coach. "I thought in the 4-on-3, the guys did an outstanding job of blocking shots. They showed a lot of desperation."

Vokoun made 32 saves before the shootout, four more than Kolzig.

"You've got to give Vokoun credit," said Capitals forward Brooks Laich, who appeared to have Florida's goalie fooled in the shootout but sent the puck over the net. "He made some great saves."

Kolzig was nearly as good, although Weiss figured him out.

Weiss was asked what his approach was.

"I don't know. I don't really have one," he replied, before adding: "I think (Kolzig) was tired by then, so maybe that helped."

Olli Jokinen, Nathan Horton and Kamil Kreps scored Florida's other shootout goals.

Viktor Kozlov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Boyd Gordon tallied for Washington in the shootout.

Captain Chris Clark, who scored Washington's goal in the second period, and Alexander Semin weren't available for the shootout because of injuries. The Capitals wouldn't say what was wrong with Clark, while Semin aggravated a bad right ankle.

This was the teams' third meeting in two weeks - the Panthers won the first two, too, each by a goal - and they square off again Saturday in Florida.

The Capitals created two great scoring chances early in the third period, one off a shot by Dave Steckel blocked by Vokoun, the other off a shot by Mike Green that found a post, and the hosts failed to put in either rebound.

The game did not begin well for the Capitals, who were whistled for one penalty two minutes into the game, and another for too many men on the ice with two seconds left in that power play.

Florida took advantage, going up 1-0 less than five minutes into the game on former Capitals forward Richard Zednik's eighth goal of the season, off a rebound.

Washington tied it when Clark stole a clear attempt by defenceman Steve Montador right at the blue line and quickly shot past Vokoun with about 5½ minutes left in the second period.

"The one goal they got, I thought we gave it to them," Martin said.

Notes: The Capitals honoured slain Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor with a pre-game moment of silence and video tribute. On the bench, Capitals backup G Brent Johnson wore a burgundy-and-white Redskins hat in Taylor's memory. ... The attendance was announced as 10,526, the Capitals' second-smallest of the season. They've won three of 12 home games.


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