Michal Neuvirth was, as Coach Bruce Boudreau said, the difference pretty much the entire game Friday night against the New Jersey Devils. He made 33 saves to ensure Washington would claim a 3-0 victory despite minimal shots and improve to 94 points on the season.
Back to that minuscule number of shots – 12 for the game and three through the first 35 minutes – the Capitals took against Martin Brodeur.
Safe to say it was a strange night in the offensive category for Washington because while it had only three shots on goal through the first half of the game it held a 1-0 lead over the Devils, whose playoff hopes suffered a damaging blow with their second loss in as many nights.
Jeff Schultz’s shot at 6 minutes 10 seconds of the first seemed to float into the crease, Brodeur couldn’t glove the puck cleanly and it found its way into the net to give the Capitals a 1-0 edge. It was Schultz’s first goal since Feb. 11, 2010, but Washington wouldn’t record another shot on goal for 21:44.
So what exactly did Capitals players think about the odd scenario where the Devils were out-chancing them yet they held a lead?
“I thought our percentage was fabulous,” Boudreau said, bringing laughter from the reporters gathered for his postgame comments. “I thought there was two or three they didn’t count, so we could have had 15.”
Said Mike Knuble, who recorded two goals for his first multi-point game since Dec. 11 against Colorado: “They came out very, very desperate and they lost yesterday. If they lost today they’re in big trouble. We knew that coming in and we didn’t really respond. We kind of held our ground and just let them run over us a little bit but Neuvy played very well in goal and kept us in the game. We had one good shot in the first period and Jeff Schultz, of all people, scores. I don’t mean that in a bad way it’s just kind of what it is.”
Alex Ovechkin picked up two assists and called it a boring game. He admitted how strange it was to have so few chances and a lead, but it ultimately didn’t bother him.
“It doesn’t matter, right now we take this,” Ovechkin said. “I think after second period, in 10 minutes we have like only three shots but we was winning 1-0. It’s something new for us today.”
--Even though the Capitals won they didn’t clinch a playoff berth Friday night because Carolina forced overtime and eventually defeated the Islanders, 3-2. Washington now needs either one more win or one Hurricanes’ loss to seal a trip to the postseason.
--Former Capital David Steckel was scratched for the game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Devils team doctors wouldn’t let him play.