Mathieu Perreault's Goal, Neuvirth's Work Lead to Victory

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 20, 2009

CHICAGO, Sept. 19 -- With the Chicago Blackhawks dressing nearly all of their NHL players and the Washington Capitals suiting up significantly fewer of theirs, Saturday night's exhibition game should have been a mismatch.

But a strong performance in net from Michal Neuvirth, opportunistic goals by Chris Clark and Kyle Wilson and an overtime winner by Mathieu Perreault helped the Capitals escape United Center with a 3-2 win before a Chicago preseason record 19,734.

Perreault's goal with 11.4 seconds remaining improved the Capitals to 2-0-0 this preseason, with both victories coming in extra time. Patrick Sharp and Jack Skille, meantime, scored for the Blackhawks in their exhibition opener.

With a number of scintillating stops, Neuvirth turned up the pressure on Semyon Varlamov in the battle for the open goaltending positing in Washington. Neuvirth (24 saves) was especially brilliant on the penalty kill and in overtime, when he made a flashy glove save on Chicago star Patrick Kane. Varlamov was occasionally brilliant in the Capitals' 4-3 overtime in Buffalo on Thursday.

Against the Blackhawks, Washington dressed only five forwards who spent all of last season in the NHL, while Chicago used virtually its entire NHL roster, highlighted by a top line of Kris Versteeg, Jonathan Toews and Kane and a top defensive pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

Chicago opened the scoring on Sharp's tally after only 4 minutes 52 seconds. Dustin Byfuglien took the original shot, but Neuvirth lost sight of the rebound as it skidded across the crease to Sharp.

In the second period, Skille stretched Chicago's lead to 2-0 with a wrist shot that zipped past Brian Pothier and beat Neuvirth's glove. Judging from Neuvirth's reaction, he likely was screened by his defenseman.

The Capitals answered midway through the second period when Clark's crossing pass intended for Wilson hit Seabrook's skate and eluded Cristobal Huet, who made 27 saves in his first appearance against the Capitals since bolting Washington as a free agent two summers ago.

Nuevirth kept the Capitals in the game with an array of outstanding stops until Wilson tied it with 2:47 left to play.

Perreault then won it in overtime when he chopped a rebound from a shot by Shaone Morrisonn over Huet.

Capitals Notes: With minor league Hershey's training camp set to open Monday, the Capitals are expected to make their first big round of cuts after Sunday's practice. . . . Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Green are among the few Capitals' veterans yet to suit up this preseason.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company