Capitals vs. Canadiens: Michal Neuvirth stops 31 shots for Washington in 3-0 win over Montreal


Troy Brouwer whiffs on this shot attempt thanks to the defensive efforts of Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
January 18, 2012

Mathieu Perreault had not suited up for a game in a week. Michal Neuvirth had not made a start in nearly three.

But you wouldn’t have known it by the way they played Wednesday night at Bell Centre.

Perreault scored his first goal since October in the opening minutes, and Neuvirth made 31 saves to lift the Capitals to a 3-0 victory over the Canadiens, which came in spite of a season-low 16 shots on Montreal’s net.

Joining Perreault on the scoresheet were Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin, whose second-period power-play tally was the Capitals’ first in three games.

“This is a team that was chasing us in the standings, so we wanted to bounce back and get a win,” Brooks Laich said, referring to a 3-0 loss on home ice to the New York Islanders 24 hours earlier. “We were disappointed with our effort [Tuesday].”

Neuvirth was occasionally spectacular in his first start since getting pulled after yielding three goals on six shots Dec. 26 in Buffalo, a span of 11 games and 23 days. The shutout was his second of the season; he blanked the Jets in Winnipeg on Dec. 15.

“I was a little nervous before the game and obviously I felt rested,” Neuvirth said. “I made a couple of big saves [early] and I settled down. I felt great the rest of the way.”

A night after going down quietly to the Islanders, the Capitals seized control of this contest for good in the first period.

Only 1 minute 15 seconds in, Matt Hendricks fought Rene Bourque, exacting some revenge for Bourque’s cheap shot on Nicklas Backstrom, who is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.

Bourque elbowed Backstrom in the head on Jan. 3 as a member of the Calgary Flames, a team the Capitals didn’t anticipate playing again until next season. But nine days later, Bourque was dealt to the Canadiens.

Bourque earned a takedown of Hendricks after a flurry of jabs. Hendricks, though, sent an important message: The Capitals were here to play.

“It’s part of the code,” Hendricks said. “Part of the game. There are consequences for all actions. He was great sport about it. He knows the game; I’m sure he wanted to get it out of the way as soon as he could.”

Capitals winger Troy Brouwer said the fight inspired the visitors’ bench.

“Anytime you stand up for a teammate, whether it’s in the same game or later down the road, it really gets the guys up,” said Brouwer, who was wearing the alternate captain’s ‘A’ for the first time this season.

Moments after Hendricks dropped the gloves, Perreault opened the scoring at 4:41, whipping a wrist shot through Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges and past Carey Price. Perreault had not scored since Oct. 22, and had been a healthy scratch in seven of the previous 10 games.

“When I get in the lineup, there’s that pressure to perform so I can get in the next game,” said Perreault, who is from nearby Drummondville, Quebec, and had 15 friends and family members in the crowd. “So to get a goal is huge. I was just so excited. I didn’t know what to do so I did the Ovi celebration and jumped into the glass.”

Less than four minutes later, the Capitals were celebrating again after Johansson beat Price over the glove from in close. Johansson appeared to hurt his left leg late in the game, but he played down the injury after the game.

Ovechkin stretched the visitors’ lead to 3-0 on the power play midway through the second period. The Capitals’ captain fired a shot from the point that kissed the post before entering the net. It was a blistering shot, but it was Brouwer’s screen that ensured Price did not see it.

“He’s been doing a job all year that way,” Capitals Coach Dale Hunter said of Brouwer’s screen. “Price is a good goalie and if he sees that puck he’s going to save it.”

With a three-goal lead, Neuvirth made sure the score stayed that way. He made a number of key saves, including a flashy glove save on Scott Gomez midway through the second period and a scintillating pad save on Lars Eller in the third period.

As dominant as the score would seem to indicate the victory was for the Capitals, they continued to struggle in one key area of the game: shots. They were outshot for seventh straight game. They registered only 17 on Tuesday.

“It’s sort of a trend of not generating a lot of shots,” winger Mike Knuble said. “I love to see us have more end zone time.”

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