Michal Neuvirth has first career shutout as Capitals defeat Hurricanes, 3-0

Carolina Hurricanes' Chad LaRose, right, tries to score on Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth. (Associated Press Photo/Gerry Broome)
Carolina Hurricanes' Chad LaRose, right, tries to score on Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth. (Associated Press Photo/Gerry Broome) (AP)
By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010; 12:45 AM

RALEIGH, N.C. - Michal Neuvirth already made a smattering of strong stops during the Carolina Hurricanes' power play in the second period when Eric Staal took aim in the right faceoff circle. It was the tail end of the man-advantage and Neuvirth stretched across the crease to make a dazzling glove save on what looked like a sure goal for the Hurricanes' captain to preserve the Washington Capitals' then one-goal lead.

It was the most eye-popping of numerous key saves Neuvirth made as he outdueled former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward to lead the Capitals to a 3-0 win.

Neuvirth turned away 29 shots for the first NHL shutout of his career.

Neuvirth's performance highlighted a strong overall effort by the Capitals (6-3), who have won two straight and continue their stretch of three road games in four days Thursday against the Minnesota Wild (3-3).

"I think we played a great game as a team," said Neuvirth, who stopped six shots by Carolina (4-4) all-star Staal alone and improved his save percentage to .929 this season. "The first time we did that was [Wednesday] and it's a big two points on the road. The shutout is just an unexpected bonus for myself but I'm happy with two points."

The score that Neuvirth protected for the majority of the contest, Matt Hendricks's first tally of the season, was the product of hard work from the fourth line. Defenseman John Erskine wristed a shot toward the Carolina net and despite colliding with Ward, David Steckel gained control of the puck while on his back and sent the puck to Hendricks, who made it 1-0 Washington midway through the first period.

The goal was also the Capitals' first first-period tally since Oct. 11, a 3-2 victory over Ottawa.

Hendricks and Steckel teamed with Matt Bradley, who returned to the ice after missing five games with a lower-body injury. The trio dished out four hits and established a strong forecheck in the opening 20 minutes as all four of the Capitals' forward lines buckled down in the close game.

"It was the first game on a long road trip," said Steckel, who had an assist and won 13 of the 18 faceoffs on Wednesday. "We needed to make sure we were playing disciplined. We took some stupid penalties, but for the most part discipline let us get pucks deep, get pucks out and playing the way that we know how to play."

Neither Neuvirth nor Ward gave up much ground once Washington took its one-goal lead, although both got lucky a few times.

The Capitals rang a few shots off the post, as did the Hurricanes, who also had a scoring chance by rookie Jeff Skinner reviewed in the second period but the on-ice call of no-goal was upheld.

Each save and smart decision Neuvirth made to minimize his risk in the crease against Carolina, appeared to pump up the Capitals even more.

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