courtesy of ‘bhrome’
Michal Neuvirth earned his first NHL shutout as the Caps downed division rivals Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 to start a three-game road trip. Neuvirth made 29 saves, including a spectacular cross-crease glove save to rob Carolina catain Eric Staal on an apparent open net, as he improved his record to 6-2.
It wasn’t pretty hockey, but the Caps demonstrated that they can play aggressive on the boards and at both ends of the rink as they put together perhaps their best effort of the season. Coach Bruce Boudreau made a statement by starting the game with his fourth line of Matt Bradley, David Steckel and Matt Hendricks. The Caps strategy of cycling four lines and playing shorter shifts paid off as the fourth line produced the first goal of the game half way through the first period. Good hustle and scrappy play around the net by Bradley and Steckel allowed John Erskine to take an open shot from the point. Steckel made a quick pass off the rebound even as he was falling to the ice and Matt Hendricks was able to poke it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward for a 1-0 lead.
That goal was the only difference for the next 41 minutes as Neuvirth and Ward dueled with great saves at both ends of the ice. The Caps negated a couple of second period power plays with penalties of their own. Finally the first line broke open the game with Nicklas Backstrom putting back a rebound off a Mike Knuble shot with eight minutes remaining in the contest. Backstrom added an empty-netter to seal the victory and record his third goal of the season.
“I thought that was easily our most complete game by everybody.” said Boudreau after the game. “You got contributions from the fourth line and the penalty killing. The goaltender was great. Everybody did a good job.”
The Caps play tonight in Minnesota against the Wild, and will face the Calgary flames in Calgary on Saturday night.