Vitek Vanecek shines in Capitals’ 2-1 loss to Lightning originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
For as many questions as there were surrounding the Capitals’ net this offseason, Vitek Vanecek is doing his best to answer them. Loudly.
In a 2-1 loss to the Lightning on Saturday at Capital One Arena, Vanecek stopped 22 of 24 shots and took a one-goal performance into overtime before a two-on-one goal from Steven Stamkos gave the Capitals the loss.
“He's certainly done his job,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. postgame “He gives us a chance to win and he's made some big saves. I thought it was a little bit quiet for him in the first period, but then in the second period he had to make some saves. We played a good team tonight, they've got a lot of firepower and so with that you know you're going to have to throw in a good game. I thought he did that.”
Though he faced just 24 shots, the numbers didn’t accurately illustrate how well he played.
The Capitals allowed 13 high-danger chances (and produced just one of their own) at five-on-five. The Lightning totaled 14 total, and 28 scoring chances, at all situations.
There were a few timely saves, like when the Capitals were knotted in a 0-0 tie, and a few standout saves, like when he went post-to-post to make a right pad save on Victor Hedman’s snap shot.
“Yeah, he’s been really solid,” defenseman Justin Schultz said of his netminder. “I think we gave up a few too many Grade A chances to them tonight and without him it could’ve been a different game. Yeah, he’s been unbelievable.”
Staring down one of, if not the best, goalies in the world on the other end of the ice in Andre Vasilevskiy, Vanecek kept the Capitals in the game throughout the night.
And while the team has allowed just three goals in two games (and just one at even strength), there’s still work to do in their own end.
“I think there is more to it than that,” defenseman John Carlson said. “Certain aspects of the defense tonight, a few breakdowns in our zone but I think it was more coming off the rush. They did a good job pushing us back and hitting underneath speed. Every team, the Rangers do it too, they send one guy out back off the gas and hit a guy underneath, it is nothing new.”
There will be more tests to come, and quickly.
The Avalanche will visit Capital One Arena on Tuesday night, meaning the Capitals’ defense — and Vanecek — will be tasked with slowing down another high-powered offensive attack in just a few days.
“I mean, it’s early,” Schultz said. “We’re still getting into the groove and working through some things, but I think as a whole we’ve done a pretty good job and it’s a good team over there. Like I said, we gave up a few too many big-time chances to them, but it was a good hockey game. We’ll get better.”