Coach Bruce Boudreau couldn't say whether Michal Neuvirth had played a better game in his brief NHL career than his 37-save performance against the Predators on Saturday night. Regardless, one thing was certain: Neuvirth was the primary reason the Capitals remained within reach of Nashville through the first half of the game and even had the opportunity to rally for a 3-2 overtime win.
It's the Capitals' fourth straight victory and one that made for an upbeat locker room afterward, considering how they managed to turn the tables on a fast-starting, previously-undefeated Nashville squad after one of the uglier 20 minutes of play in recent memory.
"I can't really repeat it," Boudreau said when asked what he told the team after the first period, when the Capitals were outshot 18-7, took four penalties and looked remarkably out of sorts. "Except that we weren't very good; that we were embarrassed in that first period. Their speed, we took penalties because we couldn't catch them. We weren't working hard enough."
I have a 6 a.m. flight back to Washington, so I'm going to be brief, but check tomorrow for more on this come-from-behind win.
Lost amid the chaos of the Capitals' horrid start to the game, Neuvirth's performance and the comeback, though, was an uncharacteristic boarding penalty on Nicklas Backstrom. The call came late in the second period after Backstrom's hit knocked Nashville's Marcel Goc out of the game with an upper-body injury.
Predators Coach Barry Trotz had quite a few things to say about the hit, so here's his full take:
"The league's going to look at it. I'm probably partial because it's Marcel and my player, but those are the type of hits that you want to take out of the National Hockey League. The biggest thing was [that] I didn't think Backstrom was playing the puck. I mean, he basically hit a player probably five feet away from the boards. If you're a player and you get hit in the back there, you're going headfirst into the boards, and that's when people get really hurt in that situation. The league will look at it; whatever they decide, we can live with. But to me those are extremely dangerous hits and I didn't think he was playing the puck at all.
"You can watch it and make your own judgment, but those are the things we have to get out of the league because we have a hurt player and left us shorthanded. They had a two-minute penalty and Backstrom [sic] ends up getting their first power-play goal and then he gets an assist on the winning goal. Not really happy with the call; thought he should have been out of the game. But I'm a coach, not a ref."
--Another day, another four-point effort from the Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin line. They've now combined for 14 points through five games this season. One funny thing, though, is that prior to the game-winner in overtime, Alex Ovechkin told Laich not to try to deflect his shot from the point.
"It was a pretty good goal for Brooksie," said Ovechkin with a smile. "I had just told him before that, that when I'm going to be shooting the puck, don't try to tip it in front. But he tipped it and he made it."
--I asked Fleischmann what he saw on his goal. The answer? Not much at all. "Just six pairs of legs. I have no idea how it went in." But at that point the Capitals couldn't afford to be picky with their shots either.