It wasn't pretty, but the Capitals still managed to earn their third straight win at Verizon Center in this young season with a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
One of the key reasons the game remained within reach for as long as it did, particularly through the first 10 minutes of the third period, was the play of rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth. In each contest he's shown more confidence and steadily improved and it hasn't gone unnoticed.
Neuvirth, who has stopped 110 of the 119 shots he's faced this season for a .924 save percentage, earned the hard hat from his teammates this evening. Where things get interesting is despite Neuvirth's stellar start, Semyon Varlamov (groin) will definitely get his time in goal once he's taken off injured reserve.
"[Varlamov's] ready but Neuvy's making a great case for himself," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's gotten better in every game and this was his best game. We know Varly's a very good goalie too, it's not ever going to be a controversy I don't think. We're just lucky and blessed to have two very good goalies."
Here are some other notes and quotes from tonight's win over the Islanders:
--Boudreau's decision to give Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom some time away from each other paid off. Here's some more insight into why he chose to put the pair on separate lines at the start of the game:
"When you're in a slump you want the other one to do great," Boudreau said. "So Ovie's looking for Nicky so much, all the time, and then Nicky's looking for Ovie instead of doing the right thing. You get them away from each other so they can continue to play their own game then once they feel the confidence you put them back.
"Once Nicky got the assist I just knew he was going to get more, because he never stops at just one once he gets a little bit of a roll going."
--Rookie defenseman John Carlson tallied an assist against New York but didn't have a strong overall game, which included three giveaways.
"Points isn't everything," Boudreau said. "He struggled. He's going to have games like that as a rookie but he wasn't very good."
--Boudreau said Mike Green is day-to-day with a "stinger" after leaving the game with just under six minutes to go following a hit.
--With his fourth straight start, Neuvirth tied Olie Kolzig, who was the last Capitals goaltender to have played the entire game in each of his first four starts in 2005-06.
--Somehow the Capitals sellout streak continued for the 63rd straight game. Granted, this counts for tickets sold, not seats full. There were a lot of purple seats visible.