photo credit - Gerry Broome - AP
Finally, the Capitals don't give up any points to a southeast division rival as they skated into RBC center tonight and came away with a 3-0 victory, spoiling the Carolina Hurricanes home opener in their second "must win" game in a row, and first of 3 games away from Verizon Center. Nicklas Backstrom scored twice in the third period (finally) after starting the season with just 4 points in the first 8 games and Michel Neuvirth put up a fantastic brick wall performance to earn his first career NHL Shutout. Neuvirth stopped all 29 Hurricanes shots in the stellar effort. The Capitals penalty killing also returned to perfect form killing off all 5 Carolina power play chances. The Caps even scored the final late goal short handed, albeit into an empty Hurricanes goal, after Carolina had pulled their goaltender, Cam Ward, to have a 6 on 4 power play advantage in a final desperate attempt to level the score. Matt Hendricks got the scoring going in the first period with his first ever goal as a Capital, as the 4th line really stepped up tonight, especially in the first period. The Caps also won a game by more than 1 goal for the first time in 4 games. It is worth noting that while the Caps did score three, this was quite a goaltenders duel as Carolina net minder Cam Ward stopped 30 shots in the losing effort, and also made a few highlight reel saves of his own.
photo credit - Gerry Broome - AP
The Capitals looked good in the first, and finally were the team to get on the scoreboard first. The energy level appeared to be up and they just looked a bit more sharp and ready to play, especially the 4th line as I mentioned. It was one of the better 1st periods for the Caps so far this season. Perhaps it was the return of Matt Bradley to the line up, along with Mike Green playing a full game. Although, Green still looked like he might not be quite 100% just yet. Thing's aren't perfect no, but the do seem to be improving. Now if only Alex Ovechkin can start finding the back of the net more for the Caps then things should begin to really go their way. Ovechkin was held goalless for the 5th straight game, but did manage to register an assist on Backstrom's first goal of the night. The defence was better tonight, and that is part of the reason the Caps got the win, but still if it were not for the outstanding play of Neuvirth between the pipes, the Caps might be looking at an entirely different box score. The Caps however will not get any time to savor the shutout win, as they immediately head out to Minnesota for a date with the Wild tomorrow night.
The big story of the night though has to be Michael Neuvirth. After a couple of key saves in the first period, Neuvirth's confidence seemed to grow and it showed in his play between the pipes. Neuvirth also left little in the way of rebounds for the Hurricanes to take advantage of in his perfect game tonight. The gem save of the night came mid way through the second period when he stone cold robbed Carolina's Eric Staal from almost point blank range, flashing the glove and snatching the puck out of mid air. I'm leaving you tonight with two videos. First a look at Neuvirth's highlight reel save here:
Finally, the full game highlights here: