WASHINGTON -- No, goaltender Tomas Vokoun conceded, spending last season with the Washington Capitals did not prepare him for the fluky goal he gave up Sunday when he returned to face his old team as a member of the Penguins.
Goaltenders learn to read the way the puck moves along the boards in their home arenas, but it's nearly impossible to prepare for what happened in a 6-3 win when Capitals defenseman John Carlson's long, simple dump-in caromed wildly off of a stanchion between panes of glass and went into the net -- which Vokoun had vacated. He was behind the net waiting to play the puck, something he has done thousands of times.
Carlson's goal tied the score at 2-2 in the second period and left Vokoun second-guessing a nearly impossible situation.
"Now, looking back, it's easy to say maybe I should wait until you can see where it's going to hit on the glass," he said. "It's a tough bounce. You freeze, and there's nothing you can do."
Vokoun, who improved to 3-1 by stopping 21 shots, let himself off the hook upon further reflection.
"It's happened to me before," he said of kooky bounces. "Once every five years, I guess.
"What are you going to say? It's a tough play."
Adam Oates was 40, nearing the end of his Hall of Fame playing career. Dan Bylsma was 32. They spent the 2002-03 season together with Anaheim, perhaps unknowingly helping each other to prepare for a coaching career that brought them to opposing benches Sunday.
" 'Disco' and I got along very well," Oates said, using Bylsma's old nickname. "We talked a lot. We sat next to each other on the plane and on the bus. He is a very smart guy, and we had some great conversations."
Bylsma divulged a little more.
"Every road trip, we would get off the plane and go find a coffee shop and 'hot stove' an hour, two hours before dinner," Bylsma said.
"I'm not surprised to see Adam go down the same road [to coaching]. He certainly has the mentality for it. He was a highly skilled player, but kind of a real nuts and bolts coach, a real X-and-O's guy."
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin admitted recently that he had a little difficulty adjusting from the larger international ice surface he played on in Russia during the lockout and the smaller NHL rinks. Malkin played for his hometown Metallurg Magnitigorsk.
Washington winger Alex Ovechkin also played in the Kontinental Hockey League, for Dynamo Moscow, and said there is a marked difference.
"In Russia, if you have the puck in the corner, you know you have room to make something. Behind the net, it's the same," Ovechkin said. "Here, everything is smaller and faster."
Not that he wants to use that as an excuse for his slow start to the lockout-shortened season.
"Right now, it doesn't matter," Ovechkin said. "I'm used to both."
He had a hard time believing that Malkin had trouble with the transition.
"It's Malkin," Ovechkin said. "I think he's the best player out there right now. He can switch it up easily."
The previous time the Penguins had a game in Washington on Super Bowl Sunday was during the 'Snowmageddon' weekend of 2010. After playing in Montreal a day earlier, they flew to Newark, N.J., and took a bumpy bus ride that got them to their hotel in the wee hours. ... The Penguins stayed overnight and will practice in this area before flying to New York for a game Tuesday against the Islanders. That allowed the players to make plans to watch the Super Bowl. ... The Capitals played without defenseman John Erskine, who served the first game of a three-game suspension for elbowing Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds in the head. "Tough for him," Oates said. "He's never been suspended before. I'm a little surprised it's three, quite honestly, but I've got no say in it." ... The Penguins scratched forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Eric Tangradi and defenseman Ben Lovejoy.penguins