After Brandon Dubinsky scored to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead in the middle of the second period of Game 4, and the crowd at Madison Square Garden started chanting “Can you hear us?” the Capitals were looking for a shift in momentum.
To achieve the change, though, Coach Bruce Boudreau said he never considered pulling goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who didn’t warrant sole blame for any of the tallies.
“No. Not at all,” Boudreau said Thursday at KCI. “I think if I’d have done that, the team might’ve thought that we were giving up, saving Neuvy for another day. This team, they always believe that they can come back.”
The team proved they could do so, mounting a furious rally to force overtime and eventually claim a 4-3 win in the fifth period with Neuvirth serving as the backstop when the Rangers pressed to prevent the Capitals’ resurgence. Neuvirth finished the game with 36 saves, and 20 of those came in a flawless final 52:36 for the 23-year-old Czech until Jason Chimera ended the contest.
“It was a big win," Neuvirth said. “Where it ranks, I don’t know. Top three in my career. There’s a lot of pressure on everyone. It was a long game. But we got the big ‘W’ so it’s good.”
In fact, Neuvirth said Washington’s Game 4 was the longest game he’s ever played and that presents an entirely different list of concerns in order to remain fresh and focused. As the contest pressed into the second overtime, Neuvirth started to flex his right hand, blocker side, and would put his stick on the ice to stretch when the play was in the other end because it was cramping after playing nearly 93 minutes.
“I think that was the longest game I’ve ever played,” Neuvirth said. “It was really hard. I think everyone was exhausted after game, but like I said it was a great team effort for the win.”
He made a few big saves down the stretch to make sure New York couldn’t regain control in regulation and to help Washington win the battle of attrition in the extra sessions. After the win, an emotionally exhausted Boudreau was asked about the performance of his young goaltender.
“He’s not ordinary,” Boudreau said with an smile. “He’s a good goalie and he’s going to be. As years go on you’re going to find out he’s a great goalie.”