With Jose Theodore having played exceptionally well over the past handful of games, Michal Neuvirth was becoming almost a forgotten figure in the Washington Capitals' goaltending rotation.
But then Coach Bruce Boudreau decided to go with Neuvirth for Saturday's game against Phoenix, following the thinking that he wanted to keep his young backup engaged after deferring to Theodore for an extended stretch.
The decision paid off handsomely for the Capitals, who got 28 saves from Neuvirth in a 4-2 victory at Verizon Center.
"I thought he played really good," Boudreau said. "I thought he was a little nervous at the beginning of the game. He really smothered pucks in the third period and allowed our centermen to win a lot of faceoffs so we could get line changes and weren't caught out there too long. That was a real big factor."
After no ice time in the past four games, Neuvirth, 21, got his first win since stopping 38 of 39 shots on Jan. 9 in an 8-1 victory over Atlanta. He improved to 6-4-0 with Saturday's triumph.
Neuvirth gave up a goal to Lauri Korpikoski 13 minutes 29 seconds into the first period that tied the game at 1. He faced 10 shots in the opening 20 minutes.
"I wasn't really feeling very good before the game, and I didn't really expect to play because [Theodore] was playing really good now," said Neuvirth, who faced five Phoenix power plays and did not surrender a goal. "I was shaky at first, but I settled down and just played my game."
Neuvirth stopped 19 of 20 shots over the final two periods, including some close-in offerings that kept Washington in front. In the third period, Neuvirth turned away 14 of 15 shots.
Neuvirth has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of 12 starts this season and rebounded from a pair of forgettable games not that long ago. On Jan. 12 in a 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay, Neuvirth stopped just 11 of 15 shots in two periods before being pulled. A day later, he gave up four goals on 15 shots in Washington's 5-4 shootout victory over Florida.
Following those games, Neuvirth worked extensively on honing his game with Capitals goalie coach Arturs Irbe.
"I was really down after those two games," Neuvirth said. "I felt like my career was over, so Archie helped me a lot, and it's a big win. Big thanks to him."