Correction to This Article
A previous version of the column incorrectly stated that the Capitals had 11 rookies in their opening-night lineup. The Capitals had 11 first-round draft picks in their opening-night lineup.

For Caps, Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov don't mind sharing time in goal

The Capitals cruise to a 7-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staf Writer
Sunday, October 10, 2010; 12:05 AM

We are a country of rankings. We like lists of anything arranged in order of greatness or awfulness or any other standard we choose to impose. Sports in particular embraces rankings, but they permeate most facets of our lives: the richest people, the best colleges, the worst dressed.

The Capitals are a notable exception: They have two young goalies, but neither is designated No. 1 - at least not yet this season, and maybe not at all this season.

With the departure of veteran Jose Theodore in the offseason, Semyon Varlamov seemed destined for the No. 1 designation. But the Russian is on injured reserve after missing much of the preseason with a groin injury. Coach Bruce Boudreau expects him to play next week.

That left Michal Neuvirth to start back-to-back openers for the Caps, on the road Friday night in Atlanta - a 4-2 loss - and Saturday night at Verizon Center, a 7-2 drubbing of the New Jersey Devils for their ninth consecutive home-opening victory.

Making back-to-back starts is nothing new for Neuvirth, who did it 17 times in the past two seasons for the Hershey Bears, leading them to back-to-back Calder Cup championships. He was 14-3 with a 1.77 goals against average in the second of those back-to-back games. After the game, he admitted he was looking forward to having a day off Sunday.

"Oh, exactly," said Neuvirth, who Friday night became the youngest rookie to start in goal for the Capitals in a season opener since Jim Carey in 1996-97. "It's been a long couple days. I'm really tired right now but it should be a good day off and you got to get ready for the game on Monday."

Neuvirth faltered early, giving up a goal to Jason Arnott with less than two minutes gone in the first period. That got Boudreau's attention.

"I was a little worried after the first goal [that] because he lost yesterday that he would feel a little bit rattled, but he settled right down," Boudreau said.

Henrik Tallinder scored the Devils' second goal, also in the first period, but Boudreau didn't blame Neuvirth for that one. The Caps trailed at the end of the period, 2-1.

But in the second period, while Alex Ovechkin and the Caps scored four goals to make Martin Brodeur look all of his 38 years, Neuvirth smothered shot after shot, 17 in all, using his glove, his pads, even his entire body. He pitched another shutout in the fight-filled third inning; he stopped 31 of 33 shots on the night.

"He doesn't give up rebounds," Boudreau said. "They weren't getting second opportunities, which was really good."

"I'm always trying to be on the puck," Neuvirth said. "I'm always trying to be in position. That's my game. Be patient, be on the puck. I did it very well tonight."

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