Capitals 3, Hurricanes 0
Michal Neuvirth didn't coast to a shut out against the Carolina Hurricanes. He earned every one of the 29 saves he made in this game giving his team, the Washington Capitals, the win 3-0. It would be the perfect road game for the Capitals as they down a Southeast Division rival on their opening night, in their barn.
Matt Hendricks would score his first goal as a Capital in the first period and that goal held as the lead for most of the game and would be the eventual game winner. Nick Backstrom would give the Caps some breathing room they didn't really need when he scored on a Cam Ward rebound, then again on an empty net late in the third.
But the story of the night was Neuvirth. He made a slew of great saves. One was on a Hurricane power play where a smart pass in front found Eric Staal wide open on the far side of the net. He shot in what looked like a wide open net, but Neuvy stretched out and made the glove save leaving Staal looking to the rafters. Even when the 'Canes thought they had slipped one past Neuvirth, a long video look from Toronto came back with a "no goal" call.
The Caps defense did a much better job keeping the Hurricanes from using their speed or getting pucks inside on them. They held the Hurricanes to 29 shots on net, this after allowing season high shots on net in the last 4 games prior to tonight. With Mike Green back in the line up, the blue liners seemed to gel better than they had in games where Green sat out.
The fourth line also chipped in with scoring the first goal of the game. Hendricks goal was a product of hard work in the offensive zone by his linemates Matt Bradley and Dave Steckel. Steckel crashed the net and Ward came out to play him aggressively. It looked like Steckel ran into the Hurricane goaltneder, but it was deemed a good goal.
In fact the Caps benefited from the bottom lines having much better chemistry. The Jason Chimera, Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr line saw some pretty good offensive pressure through out the game. While the top two lines still looked inconsistent and fighting the game more than allowing it to come to them.
Case in point, the top line of Mike Knuble, Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin struggled all night trying to set up the perfect play. But it would be a simple shot on net by Knuble that would lead to a bad rebound by Ward leaving a perfect rebound for a crashing Backstrom. That simple play would lead to a big goal in the third. It took the wind out of the sails of the Hurricanes, and the Caps would finish off their rivals for a solid road win. Sometimes its the simple play that make the biggest difference in a game.
Caps can't waste too much energy on this celebration as they are back on the road heading to Minnesota to face the Wild tomorrow night. Braden Holtby is expected to start, but with the way Neuvirth is playing, it might be a start for the second night in a row in back to back games.