When Michal Neuvirth skated into a crease at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon it was a little unexpected to say the least.

Tomas Vokoun led the team out on to the ice for warm-ups and participated as the starting goaltender for the ensuing contest typically does, but had the flu and didn’t feel well enough to take on the New York Rangers.

“He tried to do it in warmup but he wasn’t 100 percent,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “So we went with Neuvy then.”

Neuvirth, who made his first start since Feb. 1, said Vokoun told him he was ill earlier that morning, but the sudden start still caught the 23-year-old a little off guard.

“I just found out a few minutes before the game,” Neuvirth said. “I had a text message from Vokey, that he doesn’t feel good in the morning. I was kind of ready to play but he took the warmup as the starting goalie so I didn’t really get warmed up. It is what it is. As a backup, you’ve got to be ready all the time.”

Neuvirth finished with 25 saves and although he appeared to be fighting the puck a little early on, he settled into the game and helped keep Washington in the contest that it would eventually lose, 3-2, to the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers. The Capitals didn’t fault Neuvirth for the goals he allowed. Rather, they faulted their miscues defensively or in allowing a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush.

“He played great,” Alex Ovechkin said. “He makes pretty good saves for us.”

Added Mathieu Perreault: “Neuvy played great tonight. The goals he got scored on, it’s not much he could do, and he made some big saves for us.”

As for Neuvirth, who may have to start tomorrow when the Capitals host the San Jose Sharks at Verizon Center, the goaltender said he’s simply looking ahead.

“I think I got better as the game went on, I battle hard,” Neuvirth said. “It’s a disappointing loss we’ve got to regroup and be ready for tomorrow.”